Atascadero schools were locked down Wednesday morning and a gun violence walkout canceled after the district discovered two threats to its campuses, including a student who threatened on social media to "shoot up" the high school.
Atascadero police were notified of the threat just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to a release from the department. Officers responded to the student's home at 8:10 a.m. He was taken into custody and will be booked at the San Luis Obispo Juvenile Services Center, police said.
The student is not being identified because he is a minor.
Police confirmed that the teen acted alone and wasn't collaborating with anyone else. Sgt. Caleb Davis, a spokesman for the department, said police did not find any guns at the student's home.
"Im shooting up the school tomorrow during the walkout. Are you? Im going to enjoy every scream and every tear. Are you?" the student wrote in the post on Instragram. "We are NOT going to stop. We are NOT going to give up. We will NOT stop till every living thing on the campus is dead."
Davis said on Wednesday evening police will recommend the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office file a felony criminal threat charge against the student.
A shell casing was also found in the Monterey Road Elementary School parking lot, which contributed to Butler's decision to lock down district schools, Davis said.
The casing was old and had been run over by vehicle traffic, causing police to believe it had gotten caught in a tire tread or fallen out of the back of a truck.
"That's not overly suspicious here," Davis said.
Atascadero Unified School District Superintendent Tom Butler, who went to the high school Wednesday morning to oversee the situation, said the lockdown was initiated “out of an abundance of caution.”
He praised the students who saw the social media threat and reported it.
“They saw something and they said something,” he said.
During the lockdown, which began at 9:40 a.m., students and teachers were required to “shelter in place,” meaning they could continue class activities but couldn’t move around campus or go to their next classes, Butler said.
Normal activities resumed about 10:30 a.m.
“This is very disappointing timing,” he said. "Yet we can’t compromise school safety."
Threat scares parents
Parents received text messages about the lockdown about 10 a.m., sending some into a panic. A few — worried about their children’s safety — showed up at the school to pick them up.
“It’s raw to me after what happened in Florida,” said Cheryl Eggers-Huffman, who waited outside the high school's administration office to pick up her daughter.
Eggers-Huffman said she was coming back from a break at work when she heard about the lockdown and “flew over” to pick up her daughter, Sam, a sophomore.
She said became emotional when she learned about the threat.
“When will it stop?” she asked.
Laura Krause also waited to pick up her daughter, Mariah, a sophomore.
“It’s just getting out of hand,” Krause said. “It just makes me freak out — it makes me not want to bring them to school.”
She said Mariah had asked for permission to participate in the walkout, and she was supportive of her daughter.
But when Krause received a message from her daughter about the lockdown, she immediately came to the school to pick her up.
“I know they caught the guy, but it’s still just really scary,” she said.
During the lockdown, a few students — frustrated they weren’t able to gather as planned — walked out of their classes anyway.
Eden King, a 15-year-old sophomore, said she was marked absent from her class after she chose to walk out during the lockdown.
She said the timing of the lockdown seemed intended to prevent students from participating in the walkout, which was to be held for 17 minutes starting about 10 a.m.
“I truly believe the reason for the lockdown was to prevent us from protesting,” she said.
Once the lockdown was lifted, King and about a dozen other students assembled during their lunch break at Malibu Brew Coffee just down the street from the school.
They held signs on the sidewalk outside, some in support of the Parkland students, others protesting gun violence.
Freshman Maggie Strohl, 14, said she’d planned to hold a sign during the walkout and brought a letter to the Parkland students for others to sign.
She said she was "definitely a little freaked out" by the threat, but decided to continue with the walkout and the letter at lunch. Strohl said she's pleased the walkout movement has brought people together and said it's "unacceptable" that students feel unsafe in school.
Freshman Bella Otter, 14, said she supports the Parkland students and their efforts to do “something more than thoughts and prayers.”
“I feel like (school) should be a place of safety and community,” she said.
Sophomore Justyce Barela, 15, said she also walked out of class with King.
She said she saw other schools holding walkouts on Snapchat and was disappointed Atascadero students didn’t get to hold their own due to the lockdown.
“We are the future and we should get to express ourselves any way we can,” Barela said. “And we didn’t get to because of the lockdown."