Santa Barbara City College was placed on lockdown Wednesday evening while law enforcement searched the surrounding neighborhood for a wanted man, who was taken into custody more than an hour later.
The incident began at about 5:15 p.m., when Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies were conducting surveillance on the 300 block of Loma Alta Drive in Santa Barbara, according to Anthony Wagner, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The deputies were looking for a wanted parolee, Wagner said, and the man fled when they attempted to apprehend him.
Sheriff’s personnel asked for mutual aid from the Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and the city Harbor Patrol.
Wagner said the suspect, whose name was not released, is a felon with a prior history of having a firearm.
An alert sent by SBCC officials to the campus community at about 5:45 p.m said, “Armed intruder SBCC Main Campus Cliff Drive, take appropriate action, RUN HIDE OR FIGHT! Please continue to shelter in place until an all clear is given.”
Just before 6:30 p.m., the suspect was detained by police on the 200 block of La Marina Drive, Wagner said.
A few minutes later, SBCC officials sent out another alert saying they had been given an “all clear” by police and were lifting the lockdown.
Wagner told Noozhawk that reports of a gunman on the SBCC campus were false, and led to a “hysterical” reaction, with dozens of calls coming in to the department’s dispatch center.
Police advised SBCC officials “that we had an individual in the neighborhood, but not on campus,” Wagner said, adding that the college made the decision to place the campus on lockdown.
“At no time did SBPD say there was an armed intruder,” Wagner said. “At no time did we tell the school to go on lockdown. They notified dispatch that they were placing the school on lockdown, and we took that under advisement.”
Authorities used the 9-1-1 phone system to alert residents in the neighborhoods near the campus, which is at 721 Cliff Drive.
K-9 units also were on scene helping with the search, along with a county helicopter.
Later in the evening, SBCC released a statement from interim Superintendent/President Helen Benjamin outlining the night’s events, starting with SBPD notifying campus security that officers were searching for a wanted person.
“At approximately 5:45 p.m., SBPD informed campus security that they believed the wanted person was armed and dangerous, and in the wooded area behind the library. Based on this information, we immediately initiated a lockdown. We sheltered in place and all campus entrances were closed,” she said in a social media post.
The initial two text messages to the campus community said there was an armed intruder on campus, and the second one told people to shelter in place.
It wasn’t until the third message, sent 40 minutes after the first “RUN HIDE OR FIGHT!” alert, that the campus said the lockdown was a precaution due to a police search for a wanted suspect.
The lockdown was lifted after police arrested the man, and issued an “all clear” to the campus.
“The safety of our staff, students, faculty and visitors is of the utmost importance,” Benjamin’s statement said. “The Emergency Services team will immediately debrief this incident to improve our protocols. We will follow up with additional information and support resources.
“We appreciate the efforts of everyone who took measures to keep folks safe and our Campus Security for their quick response.”