Police and San Diego Unified School District officials are thanking students and parents for preventing what could have been a violent incident at La Jolla High School, March 7, by reporting threats that were heard verbally and posted on social media. Based on an influx of calls to local law enforcement, police had enough evidence to arrest a 15-year-old male student Friday morning on the charge of criminal threats before any violent action could be taken.
According to a press statement, San Diego Unified Police Chief Michael Marquez thanked the San Diego Police Department for its collaboration and fast action in response to the alleged threat. “This is absolutely an example of how ‘See something, Say something’ is supposed to work,” he said. “Students warned administrators a threat had been made, and school leaders notified all parents of this report. Multiple parents then spoke with their students and uncovered potential evidence of a threat. In the end, it was this evidence which allowed police to take swift action this morning.”
San Diego Unified School District police department Captain Dan Palkovic said at a press conference Friday afternoon that on Wednesday, March 7, students came forward to school administration to report some comments that were made by a fellow student containing threats.
“The administration contacted our police department. In conjunction with administration, school police investigated and exhausted all leads. (Thursday) afternoon, a statement went out to parents and students of La Jolla High School from the administration,” he explained.
Although the letter stated that the threat was not “a credible threat to (the) school,” it was enough to start a conversation at home.
“After that conversation (between parents and their children), SDPD received numerous additional tips into this case, which took the investigation into a different direction. It gave us further tips we could look into,” Palkovic said.
San Diego Police worked through the night on the additional tips received, which provided enough information to make an arrest Friday morning.
San Diego Police Department Lt. Steve Waldheim said officers went to the suspect’s home and took him into police custody, and he is currently being held in juvenile hall. During a search of the home, no firearms were found.
He added that the student had been suspended from school Friday and Monday because he was suspected of making threats, but there was no evidence that the crime of criminal threats had been committed at that time.
A lockdown drill was planned for Friday morning, but canceled by school principal Charles Podhorsky. However, one classroom went on lockdown after finding a note written in Spanish suggesting someone had a gun in the classroom. Police report the students were discussing gun control the previous day, and determined the note was from that class.
Additional details, such as whether the threats were to an individuals or to the school at large, the specifics of the threat and whether the student was being bullied, were not available as the investigation is ongoing.
When the investigation is complete, the case will be handed over to the juvenile district attorney’s office for prosecution.
A word of gratitude
To students and parents who spoke out, Palkovic said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. The collaborative effort between the police department and the community worked in this incident. We were able to get you to spark conversation with your children at home … and you notified the appropriate authorities, the authorities took action and were able to arrest the subject in this incident.”
Waldheim added the reminder that, “any threats, whether they are said jokingly or posted on social media, are going to be taken seriously, and investigated thoroughly. We treat every threat as if it is real and credible.”