The Atascadero teen accused of making Hollywood-style threats that prompted officials to close San Gabriel Elementary School in Atascadero for two weeks in September has denied all allegations against him.
Bret Stephen Landen, 18, had appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court twice since prosecutors filed 30 felony charges against him in December, including 27 counts of making threats to commit a crime of violence, two counts of second-degree commercial burglary, and one count of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, but he had not entered any plea in the case.
At a further arraignment Monday, Landen pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, and another pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 16.
In December, Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy ordered Landen to forfeit his U.S. passport and prohibited him from leaving the state, with the exception of a preapproved two-day trip to visit his mother in another state. On Monday, Duffy said she will allow Landen to travel to Florida with his mother for two weeks early next month on the condition that he remain in her company at all times.
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A temporary restraining order that remains in place also requires Landen to stay at least 100 yards away from any school other than Chalk Mountain Community School, a county-run school for at-risk youths in Atascadero, and to make no contact with 27 named teachers and administrators at San Gabriel Elementary.
Landen also is prohibited from possessing any weapons and must submit to a search by police at any time. He is currently out of custody after his family posted $500,000 bail, court records show.
According to the Atascadero High School website, Landen was a cross-country track runner with a 4.0 GPA in the 2014-15 school year. The SLO Symphony website previously listed Landen as a violin player in its 2015-16 Youth Concert Orchestra.
No one was injured in the Sept. 11 incident in which school employees found threatening letters and a suspicious object before the schoolday began. The object turned out to be a candleholder zip-tied to a chain-link fence near the playground and containing sodium ferrocyanide, a low-toxicity form of cyanide found in various commercial products.
Letters found outside classrooms instructed officials to “play a game,” mimicking the popular “Saw” horror film franchise, instructing teachers to locate different sets of keys, including keys inside the candleholder containing the liquid.
“If these tasks are not completed by 8:00 a.m., there will be consequences to follow, possibly affecting the children,” the letter read. “Make your choice.”
The school was closed for two weeks as crews swept the campus for hazardous materials, costing the school district about $206,000 and the city of Atascadero about $42,000. The district is pursuing restitution in the case.
Landen was 17 at the time of the alleged crimes but is being tried as an adult in the case.