STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

School safety officer thwarts alleged school shooting plot

A recent threat to commit a shooting at El Camino High School in South Whittier was thwarted thanks to a safety offic...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 6:17 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 6:17 PM

A recent threat to commit a shooting at El Camino High School in South Whittier was thwarted thanks to a safety officer who overheard the "disgruntled" student and alerted authorities, and a cache of weapons was found at the teen's home, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday.

The incident took place last Friday, just two days after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 people dead.

Deputies from the Norwalk Sheriff's Station responded to the high school, located at 14625 Keese Drive, to investigate a criminal threats call, a news release from the department stated.

When they arrived, deputies learned a school security officer overheard the student "threaten the occurrence of a shooting at the school," the release read.

The 17-year-old apparently threatened to bring a firearm to the continuation school's campus after a disagreement with a teacher over headphones he had with him at the time, said Robert Jacobsen, the general counsel for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

Students were headed to back to class after lunch break when Marino Chavez, a school safety officer who was been with the district for 28 years, overheard the student mumble the threat.

Chavez went over to the student to confirm what he heard, that within three weeks there would be a school shooting on campus, he recounted at a late-morning news conference on Wednesday.

The student apparently indicated he was going to "shoot up the campus," though he didn't issue a threat against any specific individuals, according to Jacobsen. He described El Camino as a small, alternative school, with more than 200 students enrolled.

As Chavez moved to get authorities involved, the teen tried to walk back the comment.

"He did say that he was just kidding, he did not mean it. I said, 'Well you can't say those things on a school campus,'" Chavez recalled.

The safety officer questioned the student and brought him to the administration office. He also searched the teen for weapons but found none.

Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel were called to the scene to aid in the investigation.

"Early reporting is important," Chavez said. "In the incident at El Camino High School, I felt it important to immediately contact the Sheriff's Department. There was a swift action that could possibly prevent another tragic event."

The suspect had an extensive disciplinary history at the school, and investigators learned a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic weapon was registered to his home address in Norwalk, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at the news conference.

A search warrant was served at the teen's residence where authorities discovered two AR-15 rifles, two handguns and 90 high-capacity magazines, according to McDonnell. The weapons were found unsecured in the home, meaning any resident -- adult or juvenile -- had access to them.

The teen's older brother, a 28-year-old Army veteran, told investigators that the firearms were his, and had been legally purchased in Texas and sent back to California, the sheriff said. One was registered to the man and another was unregistered, which is a felony in the state, McDonnell added.

Authorities arrested the student on suspicion of making criminal threats, he said. The department is not releasing his name due to the suspect's age.

The brother, identified as Daniel Barcenas, was also arrested and faces several charges, including possession of an assault weapon, import of high-capacity magazines, criminal storage of firearms and failure to register a personal handgun, according to McDonnell.

The sheriff credited "attentive" school resource personnel -- in particular the safety officer -- as well as "diligent" investigators, with preventing what he said could have been a dangerous outcome.

Still, a modest Chavez declined to call himself a hero, telling the gathered crowd of reports that his actions were just part of the job.

"No, I'm not a hero, I'm just doing my job every day," he said.

Since the Florida school shooting on Feb. 14, there have been 19 school-related threats in L.A. County that have been reported to the department's Criminal Intelligence Bureau, according to McDonnell.

In addition, the incident at El Camino High School last week marked the second serious threat since Valentine's Day, the sheriff said.

On Feb. 15, a day before the school shooting threat, a student who was suspended for using his cellphone in class told his mother he wanted administrators dead. She in turn reported it to authorities and the woman's son was detained, according to McDonnell. Their home was searched but no weapons were located.

"Parents, this should be a wake-up call for us," he said. "Please talk to your kids, no matter how young they are, about the challenges that we're all facing in society today. If you don't talk to them, someone else will."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 309223

Reported Deaths: 7153
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21005250
Hinds19989411
Harrison17590303
Rankin13388277
Jackson13169243
Madison9965212
Lee9900170
Jones8319161
Forrest7554149
Lauderdale7232237
Lowndes6306144
Lamar614685
Lafayette6081118
Washington5296133
Bolivar4778130
Oktibbeha458097
Panola4461103
Pearl River4447142
Warren4310119
Marshall4302103
Pontotoc417672
Monroe4063132
Union405175
Neshoba4009176
Lincoln3892109
Hancock373785
Leflore3471124
Sunflower332090
Tate325984
Pike3226105
Scott311973
Yazoo305369
Alcorn301566
Itawamba297977
Copiah294365
Coahoma290779
Simpson290486
Tippah285368
Prentiss276659
Marion266479
Leake262473
Wayne261541
Grenada257385
Covington255380
Adams247082
Newton246161
George238947
Winston226181
Tishomingo222867
Jasper220248
Attala213673
Chickasaw205857
Holmes187272
Clay183354
Stone179733
Clarke178177
Tallahatchie176240
Calhoun165632
Yalobusha160236
Smith159734
Walthall131143
Greene129633
Lawrence126823
Noxubee126634
Montgomery125842
Perry125238
Amite121041
Carroll121026
Webster113932
Jefferson Davis105932
Tunica103425
Claiborne101430
Benton97525
Kemper95728
Humphreys94732
Franklin83123
Quitman78916
Choctaw74417
Wilkinson65329
Jefferson64928
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 522512

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson755371494
Mobile39129799
Madison34124500
Tuscaloosa25408444
Montgomery24059573
Shelby23225242
Baldwin20730302
Lee15638166
Calhoun14358311
Morgan14171273
Etowah13705348
Marshall12012220
Houston10416279
Elmore10024203
Limestone9862148
Cullman9509191
St. Clair9486236
Lauderdale9280233
DeKalb8762183
Talladega8127173
Walker7151276
Autauga6763106
Jackson6762110
Blount6532133
Colbert6236132
Coffee5436113
Dale4781111
Russell431239
Franklin421382
Chilton4130110
Covington4069115
Tallapoosa3922148
Escambia390374
Dallas3528150
Chambers3519122
Clarke347360
Marion3076100
Pike306676
Lawrence296395
Winston273272
Bibb256761
Marengo248561
Geneva246475
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213268
Fayette209660
Henry188444
Cherokee182744
Randolph177841
Monroe173140
Washington165538
Macon156548
Clay150255
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne147041
Lamar140034
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock122040
Conecuh109728
Perry107726
Sumter103332
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 74°
Columbus
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 73°
Sunshine should bring continued warmth into your Tuesday. But going into the night, a cold front approaches. This will bring a quick round of light to moderate showers overnight and a late-season frost that could damage or kill sensitive plants.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather