HEMET: Report of middle school shooting causes lock downs, brings flood of officials

HEMET — With fears, rumors and veiled threats swirling around several San Jacinto Valley and Inland Empire area schools and photographs of a threat scrawled on a bathroom wall at Hemet High School circulating on social media, a 7th grade girl’s report today of hearing gunshots at Diamond Valley Middle School brought authorities from throughout the valley rushing to locate, identify and confront a potential school shooter.

SEE RELATED:https: 16-year-old girl arrested for threat scrawled on bathroom wall

Officers raced to DVMS after receiving reports of an active-shooter on the campus. The reports were eventually unfounded. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

Although officials were not able to identify or locate any actual threat, that fact did not help calm the fears of many area parents whose nerves were already frayed since the most recent mass-school shooting in Parkland, Florida; as well as the recent flood of students and parents who have reported potential and perceived threats since the deadly Feb. 14th shooting.

Today’s scare, which caused at least two Hemet schools to be placed on lock down, happened shortly after 1 p.m., when the middle schooler called her sister to report shots being fired within the school campus.

The sister who received the girl’s phone call immediately called 911 to report that her sister was hysterical and had reported hearing multiple shots being fired on the campus, located southwest of S. State and Chambers Streets.

Based on the circumstances of the reported call and the heightened sense of awareness and preparedness since Parkfield’s deadly shooting – which stole the lives of 17 people and injured at least 14 others – every available officer and police official from throughout the city responded to the middle school.

According to officials, the school was immediately placed on lock down and a Hemet PD School Resource Officer who was at the middle school when the frantic 911 call was received, “immediately began searching for any threats” as more than a dozen other officers converged on the school.

Early radio traffic indicated the alleged shooter had possibly walked away from the middle school west towards McSweeny Elementary School, causing officers to split their search efforts between the two schools.

As word of the alleged shooting spread across social media like an Internet wildfire, many parents rushed to the middle school to check on the safety of their children, creating an unexpected but brief clog of traffic along Chambers Street, where DVMS and McSweeny Elementary are situated.

An officer armed with an AR-15 style rifle returns to his patrol vehicle after completing a search for a shooter on the middle school campus. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

With campus administrators and school security personnel anxiously watching on, officers – many of whom were heavily armed and observed carrying AR-15 style, semi-automatic rifles – could be seen systematically and methodically searching the school grounds, including every room, closet and building.

“Within minutes the 7th grade sister was located as other officers cleared the school,” Hemet PD Lieutenant Jeff Davis explained in a press release after today’s scare.

Officials quickly determined that the girl, who has not been identified, was in a “back, field area” of the school when she believed she heard two gunshots. The girl told officers the suspected gunshots “sounded kinda far away,” Davis explained.

“The area was cleared and no evidence of any shooting was found,” said Davis.

Even though the report of shots fired at the school was unfounded, according to Davis, “All threats of violence are taken seriously and are fully investigated and parental and guardian involvement in student well-being cannot be understated.”

“It is important to discuss safety with children and to monitor their social media use. Unsubstantiated and/or exaggerated posts & hoaxes can be confusing for young kids and cause undue stress,” Davis continued. “We also highly recommend students at school report suspicious actions or noises to school staff first as opposed to calling a family member who is not at the same location.”

While discussing today’s threat, as well as today’s arrest of a 16-year-old girl alleged to have scrawled a threat against Hemet High School and its principal, Hemet Unified School District spokesperson Alexandrea Sponheim explained how grateful the School District was for Hemet PD’s and Riverside County Sheriff’s responses and results in both investigations.

“We are thankful for the immediate action of Hemet Police Department,” Sponheim said of today’s reports of gunfire at the middle school and Hemet PD’s response.

“We encourage our students and families to notify any suspicious behavior,” Sponheim continued. “Here at Hemet Unified we are a family, and it is up to all of us to ensure the safety of our campuses. Remember, if you see something, say something.”

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.