SAN DIEGO – San Diego’s police chief is pledging a “very robust” response to threats at area schools in the wake of last month’s deadly mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.
Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history and one of the worst in U.S. history. Days later, several 4S Ranch area schools were placed on lockdown as officers investigated an anonymous threat that “somebody was going to shoot up Del Norte High School and a nearby elementary school.”
Speaking to FOX 5’s Raoul Martinez Monday, Chief David Nisleit said the agency takes such threats seriously and its response by officers as well as other surrounding agencies reflects that idea.
Nisleit addressed a myriad of issues in the conversation from the fallout from the Uvalde shooting, how officers are responding to similar threats and how community feedback helps the agency.
See an edited conversation with Nisleit below:
Raoul Martinez: Trying to make things safer for our kids and local schools, that’s what everybody’s trying to do. Yet, somehow when things like that – what happened in Uvalde – how do you wrap your mind around it and as chief, how do you stop something like this?
Nisleit: “It’s tough to wrap your brain around it. As a father of three and I have three grandkids, it’s difficult. When you look at that, our primary job is about public safety and making certain that everybody is safe. When a parent drops their kid off at school, they expect them to be safe. So, immediately thereafter that shooting in Uvalde, I was in touch with many of my counterparts from the sheriff’s to the FBI, looking at the threat picture nationally to see if we had any similar threats coming across.
“We immediately put extra patrols around all the schools. Our school safety patrol officers started reaching out to those schools and we’ve been doing that since and we’ll do that through the end of the school year.”
RM: The lone shooter, the profile, we’ve seen studies coming out over the last couple of weeks over just – there’s a pattern here. There’s a person who feels isolated, not seen by the rest of the world, the rest of his community. How does that help you do your jobs? You obviously can’t do anything when someone hasn’t committed a crime.
DN: “It really goes to the old adage that if you know something or see something, you have to say something. You know, generally, after these mass shootings, you hear about these red flags, these signs if you will. We need someone to speak up. we need somebody to say, ‘Hey, something’s not going on.’ Reach out to a mental health counselor; reach out to your police department.
“Let us bring somebody in and have that conversation with that young man or young woman or anybody in that area. See if we can’t do some prevention.”
RM: When something like that happens, as police chief and sheriff’s and everybody else in law enforcement, you almost expect the copycats to come in. How bad is that problem? Del Norte High School a couple days later had a similar threat and everybody freaks out because ‘Oh, gunman,’ but there was no such thing. Copycats are now becoming a bigger problem.
DN: “Yeah, that’s, again, why I reached out immediately. you saw it. You mentioned Del Norte and you saw our very robust response. That’s how it’s going to be. It’s not just the San Diego Police Department; it’s our Fusion Center, it’s our state, local and federal partners all responding to make certain that everybody is safe.
“We’re going to take every single threat very serious. We’re going to work them backwards; we’re going to vet them out. If we know where someone is, we’re going to go out and at least contact them.”
RM: Not trying to put you on the spot, but a point of contention here in Uvalde investigation is the police response, specifically. Failures left and right in terms of what was understood, what they thought was happening, what was actually happening and those officers standing in that hallway for an eternity with what was happening in the classroom. You, as a police officer, hear that. What goes through your mind?
DN: “Yeah, our job is to go there very quickly. Our training is this: it might be three officers, it might be two officers, it might be one. You’re going to respond and you’re gonna stop the threat. That means you’re going to put yourselves in harm’s way. That’s what we signed up for and that’s what we’re going to do.
“Years ago, we saw one officer happened to be off duty at Santana High School, able to stop that threat. That’s our training. We continue that training and we’re going to continue to have that training. Our response will be very quick (and) very robust.
“Maybe a couple of months ago, there was an active shooter – or what we thought was an active shooter – in Shelter Island. I think you saw six or seven different agencies respond in the region. That’s the kind of response you’re going to get.”
RM: That response and communication between you guys is critical as well. What do you want the residents of the city to know as everybody is concerned and worried about this, right? What do you want folks to know? You also mentioned what to look out for. We all have to work together on this.
DN: “We all need to work together. What you’re going to expect from us is you’re going to see a very quick response. But we’re also going back to the if you know something, you have to call us. Let us come in and make certain there is no threat or if there is, to remove such threat.”