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Placer High lockdown ends after school-wide search for alleged gun

Principal says he’s glad situation was taken seriously by all involved
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer High School students are safe after an hour-and-fifteen-minute lockdown shut the school doors while Auburn Police searched for a person who may have had a gun on or around campus. Shortly before 2 p.m. a police officer received a report from a student that they had seen someone being dropped off at the school and had seen the butt of a gun in that person’s gray and white backpack, according to John Ruffcorn, Auburn Police chief. At 1:55 the school went into lockdown after Auburn Police contacted the office. Police officers accompanied school staff to each occupied classroom and searched backpacks that matched the description the student gave. Ruffcorn said about 100 backpacks were searched, but no gun was found. Ruffcorn declined to comment on what type of gun was allegedly in the backpack. Principal Peter Efstathiu said in an automated message to parents the student reported it was a revolver. Sgt. Michael Garlock said seven police units responded to the school to take part in the search. The last building to be checked was the gym before students were released from classes at 3:15 p.m. A line of parents in cars were backed up waiting for their children to come out. Ruffcorn said the department planned to have more of a presence at the campus for the rest of the week and the investigation would be ongoing. Auburn resident Claudia Quintero was waiting to pick up two students Tuesday and said the situation was scary, because you assume students are safe in school but they might not be. Auburn resident Megan Page, who has a freshman daughter at the school, was waiting outside the campus before the lockdown ended. She said she was getting into the car to go grocery shopping when she heard about the lockdown on NPR. She then headed straight to the school. “I hope a kid really didn’t bring a gun,” Page said. “That’s so scary.” Auburn resident Jason Pyorre, who also has a daughter in ninth grade, said he was concerned that he hadn’t received an automated call about the incident until 2:50 p.m. “That’s too long,” Pyorre said. “They ought to be able to hit a button on a computer and let parents know there’s a lockdown. Get the police here and do what they have got to do, and I understand that, but the notification should happen a little sooner.” Pyorre said he had texted his daughter to let her know they were picking her up and she told them the school was in lockdown. Horsey said the call system is new this year, and that the district will take its timing into consideration. Horsey said the alert went out five minutes after the lockdown began. Fellow Placer mom Jennifer Tribur said she found out about the lockdown through her mother, who heard from Tribur’s brother. Tribur said when she called the district they told her the lockdown had started 15 minutes ago and they didn’t have any details. “I’m just happy, obviously, the police were here and their presence was (here),” Tribur said. After the students were released, several commented about the event. Junior Michaela Gillespie, 15, said she was a teacher’s assistant in her last class of the day and thought at first the lockdown was just a joke, but her sister contacted her and told her about the alleged gun sighting. Junior Lee Melbourne-Weaver, 16, said his physics class pretty much continued like normal after the lockdown began, and he wasn’t worried because it sounded like the school had it under control. Sophomore Alex Duett, 14, said he thought the situation might be a drill. Then someone in his class brought up the Auburn Journal story online and he read what was happening. “It was kind of scary because of other stuff that has happened at other schools, school shootings and stuff like that,” Alex said. “They said when they came in the classroom that we would all be fine and they would find whoever it was, that no one would get hurt.” In August 2007 Francisco Evangelista, a 2006 Placer High graduate, brought a BB gun to a Placer High art class, causing a school-wide lockdown. Evangelista was later charged and sentenced to three years probation and probable deportation for the incident. Efstathiu said he thought the response by Auburn police was “remarkable” and having Ruffcorn on campus was great. Efstathiu said another call went out to parents after the lockdown ended. Efstathiu said he hopes the alleged person with the gun was not a student, but someone passing through. There will be a debriefing of those involved on Monday, Efstathiu said. “People were on it,” he said. “It was nice to know the seriousness of it was taken. It turned out very well.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com