At 11:20 on a seemingly normal Las Lomas High School day, a lockdown alarm rang through the speaker system. Students rushed to their 3rd period classes as “run, fight, hide” rang down the hallways. The Walnut Creek Police Department received a call from Officer Rosenbusch at 11:13 regarding a student on campus with a concealed handgun. From that point on, it was all hands on deck.
Tom Cashion, a Patrol Watch Commander in charge of sectors one and four of Walnut Creek, and a lieutenant, was on an administration day when he heard the call. He recalls that six or seven patrol officers, sergeants, detectives, the Chief of Police, and the watch commander responded. In this case there is not a special team for a student with a weapon on campus, no officers are sent or called they simply respond and self deploy. They are trained to sniff out weapons, and attack/stop a suspect who runs. On campus Resource Officer, Officer Rosenbusch, was alerted to the concern by Jim Taylor, Las Lomas Security Guard, while in the attendance office. Rosenbusch held off on calling a lockdown until she had found the alleged student, as to not tip him off. Rosenbusch and Officer Boreman, Northgate Resource Officer, who arrived on campus 30 seconds after the call, detained the student at 11:20. The student was officially arrested at 11:21 and escorted out of the school. Once found with a handgun, officers had probable cause to arrest the student and placed them in handcuffs and took the student to the police station. Cashion speculates the alleged student will be given time in Juvenile Hall once the investigation is concluded. There is no bail and the investigation is continuing to collect more evidence.
However, the school was in lockdown much longer in order for the police to do a full sweep. Cashion who was on campus during this time comments “When we lockdown a school there’s so much more that we have to do, even if we have the student in custody. There’s the searching of lockers, the search for a car, there’s the searching of the campus for a second perpetrator.” The police placed a perimeter around the school with the help of Las Lomas administration so no one could enter or leave.
Cashion was impressed with Las Lomas and said “Throughout the years I’ve seen schools do it (lockdowns) many times, and Las Lomas did a phenomenal job. It was like a ghost town, locking the doors, the lights off, no one peeking through, curtains, everything, I was really proud of the school.” Although we did have one mistake that the wrong message of “run fight hide” was sent out, Cashion acknowledges that human things do happen.
Teachers were equally impressed with Las Lomas. Mr. Hensley, Las Lomas’s Drama Teacher, runs his own drills, separate from school drills, to prepare his student for any potential threat, and after this lock down he feels better than ever about the safety of our school. However, this doesn’t stop him from worrying as a teacher about the current conditions of our society, especially Walnut Creek, “I think we need to take a look as a larger society, but specifically as a school district. We fit the demographic for this really well.” An English Teacher at Las Lomas expressed a similar attitude. This is Ms. Duve’s first year at Las Lomas and although she has taught all over the Bay Area, this is her first experience with a real lock down. She expressed the stress of protecting her students, “I really do feel like there are certain figures of authority that have to play that role. I think I have always viewed my life as a teacher as I’m taking care of babies, they’re very innocent beings for me.” Although there was no protocol regarding door barricading, she used student desks for extra protection. Las Lomas Social Studies teacher of AP US History and Contemporary Issue Mrs. Harvery, saw the police before the school was put on lockdown. After following all the procedures Harvey was scared, like most, and felt the pressure of protecting her students, “I felt like I had 30 kids lives in my hands. I kept thinking ‘what am I going to do? what if somebody comes in? how am I going to protect these kids?’” Harvey talks about how safety is something that teachers and the school talk about all the time, even if students don’t see that. However there is always room for improvement, “I feel like we need to have more awareness of what our students are going through. I think there needs to be more effort on teachers parts, including my part, to make sure our students mental health is ok, that they’re feeling safe and supported at school and at home… I think it’s something we, as a school, need to look at.”
Some students on the other hand felt like it wasn’t a big deal because they weren’t as informed. Freshman, Milan Chavez, had Ms. Sikorski for 3rd period: “I was calm because my teacher knew how to control us and I trusted her.” A Junior at las lomas, felt differently. As the alarms rang outside their teacher carried on with the lesson, “He acknowledged it was happening and locked the door and closed the blinds, but that was about it. I wish he stopped the lesson because one of my friends had a panic towards the end…the lack of information is probably what influenced his decision to keep going.” The student also believes teachers and students should have received more info, along with a warning if people are testing the doors by rattling them.
A close friend of the alleged student who carried a gun on school campus, Patrick Perucho, shares an experience regarding the alleged student and bullets, “He had shown me some bullets claiming them to be ‘usable twice’ and tried to give me one but I refused.” Perucho was performing for the Drama Winter Showcase that period and once finding out about the reason for the lockdown, he was shocked, “If you had told me he had a gun I would think you were full of it.” That same day perucho asked the alleged student if they had a gun and the response was a resounding “no”.
Although the community and school is full of mixed responses there is a unanimous relief from everyone that all students, teachers, and administration were kept safe. There is a communal gratefulness from everyone, to the student who was brave enough to report what they saw. The Walnut Creek community and Las Lomas High School will never forget the strength of that student.
Cashion comments, “If you think it’s something that is significant enough where the police need to be called… there’s nothing wrong with calling the police department, we encourage it… we also have ‘text 911’ now… so don’t hesitate to reach out.” If you see something, say something.