Update: Guns and Suicide Threat Puts Mar Vista on Lockdown Again

Yesterday the school went on lockdown after they received a call from a man who claimed he placed six bombs on campus and he was on a rooftop nearby with a rifle.

Update: Story updated at noon to include quotes from parents, Principal Wes Braddock and Lt. Marco Garmo.

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday Mar Vista High School went on lockdown again after the school received a call from a person who threatened to commit suicide nearby using handguns, a sheriff's watch commander said.

The school was shut down from 9:15 to 10 a.m., said Lt. Marco Garmo.

"It's the same guy from yesterday," he said, adding that the caller seems to just want attention. "We're not playing in and giving him any more attention."

The suicide threat comes after  from a man who claimed he placed six bombs on campus and he was on a rooftop nearby with a rifle with a scope.

Mar Vista High School and Imperial Beach Elementary School were locked down as a result, but no bombs or sniper were found. 

Garmo said the sheriff responded Wednesday by patrolling the area but nothing was found.

The caller demanded he be put in touch with more sheriff's department officials. Once he was contacted by the sheriff's Crisis Negotiation team, he didn't want to talk anymore, Garmo said.

"It's disgusting," he said.

Efforts to locate the caller are ongoing, Garmo said.

Principal Wes Braddock, who was a principal at Sweetwater High School before coming to Mar Vista, also said he believes the calls may not be authentic.

Threats of this kind play with student's educations and the hearts of students and their families.

"I've been on this thing for the last 12 hours. I'm walking around campus yesterday with explosive sniffing dogs. I'm looking in trash cans. I'm looking in lockers," he said. 

"And in my heart, the sheriff isn't here so I don't want to put words in their mouth, but I truly believe that no time in the last 12 hours, since the first lockdown, has your child's safety ever been compromised."

Despite authorities belief that the calls may be a hoax, more than 200 parents and family members lined up outside administrative offices to get their kid out of school. 

"The system is not set up to handle 150-200 parents at a time," Braddock said.

The process took so long because education code mandates must be followed to assure that students are leaving with the person listed on their emergency contact cards and not an older friend or boyfriend, Braddock said.

Pamela Olvera was in line for more than 30 minutes before making it near the front of the line. She has two kids who attend Mar Vista and said she was more concerned for her children's safety yesterday when streets were blocked off and a helicopter circled the campus. 

Tuesday afternoon she said she was heading to work when she sent her kids a text that dinner was ready and instructions on what to do when they get home from school. Her daughter replied with one word: "Lockdown."

"I thought that's pretty advanced for someone her age. I thought she was saying I've got this on lockdown," Olvera said. She understood the campus was on lockdown after additional text messages before students were instructed to turn off their cell phones.

"If someone was going to do something, they aren't going to do it right in someone's face, or right in front of the police," she said.

Clee Gonzalez said he received a text from his kid and Pete Belury got a phone call when the campus went on lockdown. Both felt they it was fine if their kids stayed in school, but both said their kids urged them to pick them up.

Belury called the threat the equivalent of a New England snow day. 

"I could hear the kids in the background and it sounded like Lollapalooza," he said. 

Paula Hall was also in line to pick up her freshman son, and thinks the threats can be a source of concern and anxiety for parents and students.

As a member of the Student Site Council and the District Advisory Council, she spent part of her time in line asking parents how they feel about the threat.

"Some are concerned about their kid's safety. They think the school's handling it the best they can. They don't feel they're unsafe, but some felt it was too early to bring them back to school after all that happened yesterday. 

"The kids can be really concerned, especially in those moments don't know it's real or not," she said. "We shouldn't just blow it off."

Ruth May 02, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Thank God it was a false alarm. But we should take this experience as an opportunity to teach our children to be prepared and what to do in these situations. To try not to panic and try to relax and just follow the Instructions by their teachers and school staff. To be aware that people react differently and it is ok, if they see somebody that is crying or having a panic attack, it is ok. and it makes others anxious and worry, but to think everything is going to be ok,. to breath, and focus on following instruction from the school staff. All parents are notified and everything will be fine. And if anything happens, like an explosion or something...to do what they learned in case of earthquakes. Let them know that all sheriffs and police and community are doing their best to protect them. Also to be aware of false rumors , eventually they will know the right story. The school need to prepare them not only for earthquakes and fires, but for things like this, how to react, practice where to go and to keep silence to be able to hear any instructions by teachers. Relaxation techniques for these types of situations.
Shaggy May 02, 2012 at 06:28 PM
mar vista students arent stupid. panic wouldnt get the best of usi went there for three years and i wish i couldve finished there this year they are smart its parents if anyone who would panic we look out for eachother
Father Dave May 02, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Just got news that someone is on campus at Mar Vista right now with a gun threatening suicide. This comes from an IM from my wife that she obtained off of Yahoo local news
Marti May 02, 2012 at 10:01 PM
As a parent it was pretty hard not receiving direct info from authorities, yet i understand that they can not share all info because you never know who all is involved with the situation. thank God my child listened to me and did not turn off her phone as instructed. It may be wrong but I have always advised my girls to keep their phones on when away from home. it's important to let them know its being handled and to remain calm and also to know that they are okay.
Virginia Syverson May 03, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I thought the administration did a super job in getting phone calls to parents. It was calm and organized and the follow up calls from Principal Braddock were reassuring. Thanks Mar Vista! Virginia S.
IB Mom May 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
To Virginia, you probably would feel differently if you had a student in the school while all this was going on. There was absolutely no communications until the news was already broadcasting it & the automated call was definitely an afterthought as there were already a line of over 50-75 parents long picking up their student before a call was placed. As a parent I am very disappointed in the way this has been handled, especially the 2nd day in a row.
john keltner May 03, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I agree w/ IB Mom. The ONLY accurate news we had was from my 9th grade daughter and my 5th grade son. The automated call just said a "community event" led to the lockdown - wtf - the Farmer's Market got out of hand? The autocalls didn't even go out until late afternoon. I called IB City Hall the 2nd day - about an hour after my daughter texted - and the person at the "Health & Safety" phone didn't know anything about the second lockdown. She also told me that the lockdown was never broadcast so her teacher knew nothing about it - until a girl returning from the toilet came running in screaming that they were in lockdown again?! Also, my daughter told me later that a softball coach was arrested for having sex w/ kids last week!!! Why was there no prepared notice about that? Oh - and the kids were expected to go back to school this morning - biz as usual! Personally I'm VERY disappointed in the school's response!!!
john keltner May 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Oh yah - and they haven't caught the perp yet - ?! Nice work Law Enforcement! Probably the best work since the Rebecca Zahau "suicide" investigation!


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