This afternoon, at about 3:30, my family was just finishing a meeting with my son’s consultant teacher at Alternative Family Education, and I was about to cycle over to the County Office of Education for a meeting of the senior science fair judges. We got a “code red” alarm and the school was locked down. So we hung around, waiting for the lockdown to end so we could go about our business—we figured it would last half an hour or an hour. There were 11 of us in the building: 4 teachers, 3 parents, and 4 teens.
At about 4:00 we heard a large number of shots fired in quick succession, and started thinking that the police had got their armed suspect and that the incident would soon be over. It was a bit scary being that close to a shooting .
We had internet and phone access, so we were able to get some information about what was happening, though not always directly (there was one phone call form a relative in Argentina, who’d heard about the incident on the news). It seems that the first incident (that triggered the lockdown) was the shooting of two plain-clothes police officers half a block from the school, apparently as they were investigating a domestic violence report. The second incident was the police shooting one of the suspects about a block away from the school. It is believed that another armed suspect is still at large, and the whole neighborhood is cordoned off. My understanding is that the two police officers were killed, as was the suspect that the police shot.
People from more violent cities in the US may laugh at our innocence, but this is the first time that Santa Cruz City police have been killed in the line of duty (according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel). It is a sad day for the city.
The Sentinel article reported “Students from the locked down schools were bused to the County Building to be picked up by parents,” but apparently they forgot all about the 11 of us out in the AFE trailer, and we were not released until 7:15pm, when the daughter of one of the teachers badgered the police to let us out. With at least 6 different police forces involved in the barricades, I imagine that they had some serious communications problems. I’m surprised, though, that the school administration had not made sure that we had been evacuated, as they had known we were in lockdown and had gotten counts from us of how many people were in the building. Somewhere (either within the school system or within the police system) communication had broken down. Apparently a nearby preschool had also not been released from lockdown. I’m glad that we had only teens and adults in the building and not young kids. I think that the schools may be wanting to re-examine their lockdown protocols, simplify them, and provide checks so that people don’t get forgotten in the future. (Though let’s hope that we never have an incident like this one again.)
While we were spending almost four hours we did various things to divert ourselves: 4 played Scrabble, a few caught up on work or surfed the internet, some read books (the trailer has a small but decent library), some told stories of their previous exciting adventures, and people chatted—it turned out that several of the people were neighbors of each other, and hadn’t realized it before. Every once in a while we’d think that the bus for us had come and everyone would gather up there stuff, eager to leave, but it always turned out to be false alarm.
Overall, I’m sorry I missed the judge’s meeting, but I’m glad that the lockdown was just boring for us—not “exciting”. Being a block away from a major shooting is more excitement than I need.