SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — Police in Santa Rosa confirmed Friday afternoon that a suspended 15-year-old Santa Rosa High student with a replica gun triggered the school lockdown and police search of the campus earlier in the day.
Police said in a press release that the school’s resource officer received an urgent call from a staff member at 10:41 a.m. Friday reporting that a student had seen a second student (the suspect) holding a handgun in the music building. The witness ran to the office to report what he saw.
The officer was familiar with the 15-year-old student who allegedly had the gun and ordered the lockdown of the school before calling Santa Rosa police for additional officers. Over a dozen officers were at the scene within five minutes of the call.
By the time police were branching out to search for the suspect, the number of officers had grown to over 30.
Police said the lockdown and shelter in place order were precautionary. Santa Rosa High seniors, who had been practicing for their graduation ceremony on the school’s athletic field, were quickly moved into the gymnasium.
“We were halfway through our practice when the principal sprints away and we were looking around like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then they get on the mic and say, ‘Hey, there’s an emergency and we all have to calmly go to the gym,'” graduating senior Maxine Howard told KPIX5.
Shortly before 12 p.m., Santa Rosa police posted an update on Twitter that stated over 20 officers were at the high school campus conducting a search after a report of a student seen on campus with a handgun.
A systematic search of the campus was conducted while the school remained locked down with students and staff locked in their classrooms.
During the search, police received a tip that the student may have fled campus as the lockdown was being initiated and gone to a nearby McDonald’s. Police confirmed that the suspect had been at the restaurant with surveillance video, but he had already left.
At 12:48 p.m. a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy located the suspect at the intersection Beaver Street and Benton Street in a neighborhood adjacent to Santa Rosa High. The suspect was detained without incident but did not have the handgun on his person.
Just after 1 p.m., Santa Rosa Police tweeted that a suspect was in custody and that students would be released shortly.
When being questioned by a Santa Rosa police detective, the suspect said he disassembled the gun and put it in the trash at McDonald’s. Police found the gun and determined it was a realistic looking replica firearm with functioning slide that shoots pellets or bb’s.
Parents were told to stay away from the campus during the lockdown. Initially they were directed to go to the nearby Big Lots parking lot to speak with officers stationed there for more details, but they were later redirected to go to a parking lot for the Santa Rosa Junior College campus.
“My daughter texted me to let me know the school was on lockdown and then she told me what she had heard and I jumped in my car and came right over here. We’ve been out here since 11 waiting,” said Melissa Khammivong, mother of a freshman.
Police also said the teen was suspended and shouldn’t have been on campus in the first place.
The lockdown was lifted and students released at around 1:20 p.m. The incident lasted about two hours.
The teen was transported to Santa Rosa Police Department where he will be booked into the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Center and charged with felony possession of a weapon on school grounds.
Police said that there were no threats of violence and no one was injured.
The school’s graduation ceremony for the 423-member senior class would be held as scheduled Friday evening, school officials said.
School authorities at Santa Rosa Junior College also locked down that campus. An email alert sent out by the school instructed anyone on the campus to find a safe location out of sight, away from windows and barricade themselves behind secured doors. Individuals were also told to remain quiet and to listen for and follow instructions from emergency personnel.
Additionally, the school’s district office and Ridgway High were also placed on lockdown during the incident.
The school district released a statement Friday afternoon to announce that counseling would be available for students from Ridgway High and Santa Rosa High on Monday, June 3, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Room 130 at Santa Rosa High. Additionally, anyone who interested in counseling after Monday can contact the district’s Integrated Wellness Center, which will provide free counseling and tutoring services during the summer break. Interested parties can get more information at the Santa Rosa Schools website.
Andria Borba contributed to this report.