SAN DIEGO – About 20 threatening graffiti messages claiming there would be a school shooting Monday were found spray-painted around Rancho Bernardo High School's campus Monday morning, prompting a large-scale police presence and an investigation, an officer said.
In photographs posted on social media, the graffiti made apparent reference to the deadly shooting on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and threatened a shooting would happen at noon Monday on the campus at 13010 Paseo Lucido in Rancho Bernardo.
A photograph posted to Facebook showed one spray-painted message that read: "2/26 12:00 school shooting `Florida was NOTHING!!"'
Other messages also made references to Florida and threatened the shooting would happen at noon Monday. One was accompanied by a Swastika, others by profanity.
"Murder blood chaos," read one of the messages. "The innocent will die," read another of the scrawls.
“As I walked through the gates, saw a lot of people kind of panicking. Police were there too -- realized it was kind of a serious situation," said sophomore Samuel Hwang.
All of the messages appeared to be written in black spray paint on walls across the campus, including some messages painted over a large mural of a nature scene.
Police were notified of the messages around 6:30 a.m. Monday and officers were on campus throughout the day investigating the threats and determined the threat was not credible.
"Regardless, that was a severe disruption to the school day – as well as it strikes fear in the hearts of students, parents, teachers. This kind of stuff we have to take seriously in this day and age," said Christine Paik, spokesperson for Poway Unified School District.
Parents received a message from RBHS Principal Dave LeMaster about the messages.
"We immediately contacted San Diego Police Department who are on campus investigating. At this point, the SDPD do not believe this to be a credible threat. We will continue to have police presence on campus for the remainder of the day and throughout the week.
We also want parents to be aware that after seeing the vandalism, many students elected to leave campus before school started. We will be sending additional communication to families later today."
The graffiti was just the latest in a series of threats or perceived threats at San Diego-area schools since the shooting in Florida that killed 17 people, though the previous threats appeared to be unfounded. Those incidents included apparent threats at San Marcos High School last Tuesday, and on Wednesday, at Vista High School, Madison High School, Innovation Middle School, and Creative, Performing and Media Arts Middle School.
Later in the week, there was a perceived gun scare at Ramona High School and unsubstantiated threats at San Diego High School, San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and STEAM Academy at La Presa, a middle school in the Spring Valley area.
All of the threats involved social media postings or messages scrawled on campus, and all appeared to be hoaxes or in at least one case, a misunderstanding. On Thursday, however, San Diego police arrested a Torrey Pines High School freshman for allegedly claiming -- verbally and in writing -- that he planned to commit acts of violence at the Del Mar Heights Road campus.
Officers searched the boy's home, seizing electronic devices but finding no weapons, SDPD public-affairs Officer Joshua Hodge said. The suspect's name was withheld because he is a minor, and details on the nature of his alleged threatening statements were not made public.
Rancho Bernardo High School, with a student enrollment of approximately 2,250, is a comprehensive high school located in northern San Diego County drawing students from the communities of Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Los Penasquitos, Sabre Springs and Carmel Mountain Ranch.
SkyFOX flew over the school around 8:30 a.m. and showed video of police on campus.
This story will be updated as information becomes available.