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Monday, September 28, 2020

Suspect of campus threat arrested; school resumes

A suspect was arrested after Los Angeles Police Department received a call that a possible shooter was headed toward campus on March 7. The school was evacuated and closed for the day, but classes will resume tomorrow.

The campus was cleared by Pierce deputies and the LAPD after a “credible threat” was reported this evening.

The suspect was identified as a male adult. No weapons were found in his possession. Deputies determined that he was not a former nor current student at Pierce College.

Juanita Navarro, an LA County Sheriff’s deputy, said someone overheard a threat and it was reported to LAPD.

Pierce Deputy Isaac Jorge said the campus Sheriff’s Office was notified by the LAPD of a credible threat at about 4:30 p.m. Evacuation notices began rolling out within the hour, and deputies continued evacuating the campus until closing the gates. College President Kathleen Burke said about 4,000 people, including staff, were evacuated.

LACCD Community College Bureau Captain Rodrick Armalin said they received a call from LAPD that an informant reported that a person at a bus stop on Sepulveda Blvd. and Plummer St. was on the phone threatening Pierce College.

“That individual had stated that he was en route to Pierce College to shoot the campus. LAPD dispatched officers to that location and contacted us,” Armalin said.

Armalin said that LAPD detained two individuals at that intersection. One of them matched the description the informant had given, and he was taken into custody and arrested for warrants.

Deputies advised and briefed Pierce administration.

“Out of the interest of the safety of all individuals on campus, staff and students, the college president decided to close the campus. We proceeded to evacuate all persons off campus,” Armalin said.

Burke was off campus at a Board of Trustees meeting when the information was provided to officials on campus.

“I was on the phone with our local deputy and made the decision to evacuate the college,” Burke said. “Then I notified the vice presidents because I knew one or two of them had to be available on campus.”

Burke said the decision was made to evacuate the campus as quickly and safely as possible while the investigation was ongoing to prevent more students from coming on campus.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Sheri Berger said that she was on campus and immediately began contacting people to make them aware of the situation.

“When I heard the information that [Burke] had made the decision to close the campus, I notified my deans, then notified my staff,” Berger said. “Then I headed over to the Sheriff’s Office for the briefing.”

The evacuation caused traffic jams around the campus, and LAPD reinforcements were called in to assist. It took at least two hours to clear the congestion.

Email alerts and text messages were sent out around 5:30 p.m., but the message did not clarify that Pierce College was being evacuated.

The confusion lead other colleges to tweet that nothing was happening on their campuses.

Santa Monica College released a statement that said they were not being evacuated and classes were still in session.

Armalin said they have investigators from the Sheriff’s Department and are working with LAPD to determine whether this was a credible threat or a hoax.

———–update———-

LACCD Community College Bureau Captain Rodrick Armalin said the suspect who allegedly threatened Pierce is in custody and is being interviewed. The investigation is ongoing.

Armalin said that because the tip was reported by an anonymous source, investigators can’t perform a field show up.  

“We are dealing with a lot of ‘who’s who?’ We absolutely feel that our LAPD detained the people that this anonymous informant described,” Armalin said. “The person that was detained has similar features to what the anonymous informer said, and the person was detained where the informant said he made the call from.”

Armalin previously said in a press conference that investigators are trying to determine whether the threat was a hoax.

“We need people to know that you can’t say things like this, jokingly or otherwise, about harming others,” Armalin said. “This is a great example of what can happen. If you hear somebody say something, please let us know. Let local law enforcement know.”

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The Roundup is the student-run news outlet at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.

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