Suspect detained on campus, taken into custody

Alex Vejar

Santa Monica College Police Sgt. Jere Romano and other officers escort the suspected gunman out of the Psychological Services office and into custody on Thursday, May 16.

Elizabeth Moss, David Yapkowitz, News Editor, Sports Editor

A 19-year-old African American male student at Santa Monica College was taken into custody Thursday morning in connection with a shooting threat that resulted in a campus lockdown, Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department confirmed at a press conference.

Police detained the unarmed suspect in SMC’s Psychological Services department after he turned himself in.

The suspect threatened to harm others and indicated he had a firearm in a call made at 7:30 a.m. from the suspect’s cell phone to California Highway Patrol, Lewis said.

Upon receiving the call, CHP dispatchers instructed the student to turn himself in to the nearest medical facility.

By 8 a.m., dispatchers at CHP had informed both SMPD and SMCPD of the threat. The two departments worked together to establish a command post to assess the situation.

The suspect, who was already on campus for an 8 a.m. class, received the mass phone call sent out to all students that morning about the lockdown. He knew the lockdown was in connection to him and proceeded to turn himself in to SMC Psychological Services.

The student was suicidal, with no apparent suicidal history, Lewis confirmed.

Lewis said the Los Angeles Sheriff Department and Los Angeles Police Department were working with similar incidents with a “same name subject and similar cell phone number.” Authorities believe that this case is linked to the threats that lead other school campuses in Los Angeles to be evacuated this morning.

Administrative assistant Martha Whitfield, who was manning the desk in Psychological Services when the suspect was detained, said the student was clearly “scared and depressed.”  The school sent her home for the day.

Police also placed John Adams Middle School and Will Rogers Elementary on lockdown in response to the threat. SMC’s satellite campuses were evacuated that morning as well.

The south side of campus was closed, as police cordoned off Pearl Street from 16th to 20th Street. Armed police officers stood watch and directed traffic on Pearl Street and 17th Street.

Students were allowed access onto the main campus otherwise.

“I thought it was just another scare, but I didn’t want to take any chances and come here,” said student Ryan Farnam, who was at home when the robocall was sent out.

“I saw the cops and they told me not to come in,” said student Lawrence Kotovets. “I saw everyone else here, all the students, they were acting like nothing was going on.”

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