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‘Attentive’ officer thwarts alleged school shooting plot at SoCal high school

LOS ANGELES - A recent threat to commit a shooting at El Camino High School in South Whittier was thwarted thanks to a safety officer who overheard the "disgruntled" student and alerted authorities, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday.

Deputies from the Norwalk Sheriff's Station responded to the high school, located at 14625 Keese Drive, last Friday to investigate a criminal threats call, a news release from the department stated.

When they arrived, they learned a school security officer overheard the student "threaten the occurrence of a shooting at the school," the release read.

The 17-year-old apparently threatened to bring a firearm to the continuation school's campus after a disagreement with a teacher over headphones he had with him at the time, said Robert Jacobsen, the general counsel for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

Students cannot possess electronic devices while class is in session, the Whittier Daily News reported.

The student apparently mumbled the shooting threat, then reiterated it after being prompted by the alert school safety officer, identified Marino Chavez.

The student indicated he was going to “shoot up the campus,” but didn’t issue a threat against any specific individuals, he added.“The safety officer did engage the student, and the student did comment that in three weeks he was going to bring a gun to school," Jacobsen said.

A weapons cache confiscated from the home of a 17-year-old who allegedly threatened to shoot up his Whittier-area high school is shown at a sheriff's news conference on Feb. 21, 2018. (Credit: Steve Kuzj / KTLA)

After hearing the alleged threat, Chavez notified the school district, which sent personnel to the campus to investigate. School officials determined the incident should be reported to law enforcement and they contacted the Sheriff's Department, according to Jacobsen.

No weapons were found on the student, he said.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell credited "attentive" school resource personnel, as well as "diligent" investigators, with preventing what he said could have been a dangerous outcome.However, when investigators went to the teen's home, they discovered weapons and ammunition, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The student, who has not been identified, was apparently arrested, although Jacobsen stated it was unclear when exactly the teen was taken into custody, KTLA reported.

Parents of students at the school were notified of the incident, he said.

Three safety officers are usually on the campus, according to Jacobsen. He described El Camino as a small, alternative school, with more than 200 students enrolled.

The sheriff will speak at a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to provide more details about the case. Other authorities, including the two arresting deputies, school district officials and the security officer are also slated to be there.