Hollister Police Chief David Westrick said law enforcement authorities have ramped up security on the San Benito High School campus in light of social media threats alluding to a planned shooting at lunchtime Friday.
Westrick spoke Friday morning and briefed San Benito Live on the situation. He acknowledged that some parents kept their students home from school Friday in light of the unverified threat, but noted he felt confident to send his own daughter to San Benito High today.
“I sent my own daughter,” the police chief said. “My own daughter went to school this morning.”
Westrick said the situation arose earlier in the week when social media from an unidentifiable source alluded to a threatened shooting during the so-called “Baler Lunch Time” on the campus. That special lunch period runs longer than usual, from 12:42 p.m. to 1:22 p.m.
Police and school officials have been collaborating to investigate and stay on top of the situation, and sent out notices to parents and the broader public Thursday referencing the threat.
“So the rumor was it was going to happen today, Friday, and so there’s nothing else,” Westrick said.
He believes others in the community have heard the original rumor and then re-posted it, which has caused additional concern on social media. He clarified there are no suspects in the investigation, while any “identifiers” have been blacked out to prevent identification of a perpetrator.
“The postings were a couple days ago,” he said. “We’ve been looking at those. We don’t know who’s posting it.”
He went on: “What it boils down to is we’re looking at trying to figure out if any of it is verifiable. It’s just rumor.”
Westrick pointed out there were similar threats at the campus last year and the year before that.
“I don’t know if it’s anxiety,” he said. “I don’t know what it is; sometimes it happens during finals as well.”
Still, the police department is taking the threat seriously, he said. He noted how three school resource officers will be on campus Friday along with additional patrol staff who are available. He said the campus has been searched thoroughly.
“We’ll be on campus all day,” he said.
He also mentioned how school officials are very busy dealing with the situation and that they don’t necessarily have time to return everyone’s concerned phone calls.
“It’s kind of unfair,” he said of criticism. “They’re really trying to keep the campus as safe as possible.”
He said he had been in contact with school officials, including a phone call at 6:30 a.m. Friday with the superintendent, Shawn Tennenbaum.
The following is the message that went out Thursday on the HPD Nixle page online.
The Hollister Police Department is investigating a unverified rumor of a shooting threat at San Benito High School.
San Benito High School staff as always, is working closely with the Hollister Police Department for the continued overall safety of the students.
At this time, there are no substantiated facts to verify the information is anything other than a rumor. Hollister Police Department will continue to investigate.
San Benito High School has sent out an internal message to staff, parents and students on the procedures they will be following for overall campus safety and security. It should be noted that Hollister Police Department has an assigned School Resource Officer on campus.Anyone with information regarding this investigation is requested to contact Officer Aguilera at 831-636-4330. Persons wishing to remain anonymous may call WeTip at (800) 78-CRIME. Information provided to WeTip may qualify for a reward.
San Benito High School put out the following on Friday morning:
Good morning San Benito High School community:
We are aware of the recent posts on social media and continuing our due diligence to determine the credibility. At this time, we have not substantiated any of the details that have been shared through social media. We will continue to work with local law enforcement and our staff throughout the morning. We understand the concern and sensitivity from our school community, and will continue to communicate regularly as well follow all safety protocols throughout the day. Please share any information directly to Principal Ramirez’s office, 831-637-5831, extension 172. We will proceed with our normally scheduled school day today. Thank you for your support and cooperation.