Police “intercept” weapon on campus

Graschelle Hipolito, Editor-in-Chief

A week before the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon that resulted in 10 student deaths, Bear Creek staff were alerted by an email during 6th period from Vice Principal Sera Baysinger regarding the increased presence of Stockton police officers on campus.

Although never specifically addressed in any email or phone call to Bear Creek staff and families, the weapon was confirmed by Stockton police spokesman Officer Joe Silva to be a loaded gun found in the boys locker room.

Students walking around campus were told to immediately return to their classrooms and promptly ushered home as school released at the end of the day. All after school on-campus activities were cancelled, including sports practices, tutorials, and club meetings.

In an email later that day, Bear Creek staff and families were informed that police were called to assist due to a student report of a weapon on campus.

Julia Morgan Elementary School, which is 0.6 miles from Bear Creek, issued a schoolwide lockdown after receiving news of the weapon threat.  However, Baysinger said that Julia Morgan administration’s decision to go on lockdown was not by demand from Bear Creek.  According to Baysinger, the police felt that a lockdown was not required on Bear Creek campus because the concern was confined to one area.

“With immediate police response, we were able to identify those involved and intercept the weapon,” Baysinger said in the email.  “As a safety precaution, additional Stockton Police officers and district personnel are on site to assist.”

Baysinger refused to comment on the disciplinary action taken against the students in possession of the weapon and ammunition.

“It’s against the law to have any weapons on campus, so you’re not only going to get expelled because you’re not supposed to be in possession of anything [dangerous], but you could face charges or be taken into custody depending on what was found,” School Resource Officer Erica Gonsalves said, regarding the general potential consequences of weapon possession on campus.  “It’s not only a threat to themselves, but other students on campus.  Accidents could happen and you never know what they are capable of.”

The boys locker room was placed under police investigation to ensure that the area was clear of any other dangerous or suspicious items.  Locks were cut off of every locker so that police could conduct a thorough search and students were prohibited from entry to obtain any of their belongings, including backpacks, cell phones, keys, and textbooks.

“After the police cleared it, there were still some people in the parking lot asking if they could get their stuff [from the locker room] and they couldn’t,” junior Andrew Hernandez said.

Students and parents tried to get in contact with administration to voice their concerns, but no exceptions were made in order to avoid disruption of the investigation.  According to Baysinger, a few 6th period P.E. boys were able to retrieve their belongings once the police released the boys locker room back to Bear Creek administration around 5 p.m. that evening, but the remaining majority had to report to the locker room before school the following morning to do so.

“With things that had that much value still in there, we wanted to make sure that nobody had the inclination to break in and go through everybody’s items,” Baysinger said.

Security personnel patrolled the boys locker room overnight until Bear Creek administration arrived the next morning.  Principal Bill Atterberry and Asst. Principal Dennis To aided the process of escorting students to their assigned locker to gather their items.

“I’m in football, so it’s a big deal for me because I have to get my grades up, but I left my homework here,” sophomore Miguel Fajardo said, while waiting in line outside of the boys locker room on Thursday morning to reclaim his items.

P.E. students were allowed to keep their belongings in their possession, not required to change into P.E. attire, and not involved in any outdoor activities until administration replaced each lock. The total cost of compensation for student locks was $1,956.55 according to Baysinger.

The following Friday, “The Record” published a story that claimed Bear Creek had returned to “normal” after the gun incident.

“Bear Creek students heading back to school Thursday morning […] were mostly annoyed at the inconvenience and not shaken by the event,” Record staff writer Nicholas Filipas said in the article.

Many students expressed their dismay with the portrayal of Bear Creek in the article, especially the headline “Bear Creek High School back to normal,” by taking to Twitter or even directly contacting Filipas.

Senior Jacqueline Gaspar emailed Filipas to express her thoughts.

“I read the article, which was about the steps taken by police and administration on the day of the incident, but I couldn’t shake the thought of the use of ‘normal’ in the headline,” Gaspar said.  “I usually keep my mouth closed and just observe, but when I know that there are [students] trying to change the image of our school for the better, I knew I couldn’t let one article trample the efforts of many.”

In his own defense, Filipas replied to the email to address a misunderstanding and said that the headline and subheads are not within his control.

“While I stand by my article and welcome criticism from readers, the intent of the story was not to label Bear Creek High School as a ‘ghetto school,’ but to showcase that a potentially dangerous situation was thwarted by a fellow classmate of yours and how the school and Stockton Police handled the event with professionalism and swift action,” Filipas said in a reply to Gaspar’s email.

In the midst of this incident, Bear Creek students and staff applaud the initiative taken by the student who reported the weapon on campus.

“We are extremely proud that we have students that are not afraid to get involved and who have taken ownership of this campus to know that it is not acceptable for things like that to happen at Bear Creek,” Baysinger said.