SAN DIEGO – A 31-year-old after-school assistant accused of barricading herself and students inside a Lemon Grove classroom claimed she saw demons outside and needed to protect them, a prosecutor said Monday.
Linda Lira plead not guilty Monday to three felony counts of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor of resisting arrest.
Lira was working at Lemon Grove Academy at 7885 Golden Ave. just after 4 p.m. Wednesday, “when she began acting bizarre and barricaded herself and several children in a classroom,” said San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Chris May.
A prosecutor said Lira saw demons outside and needed to protect the students. She allegedly slapped one child on the hand and shoved two other students when they attempted to get out of the classroom.
Students used Lira’s unattended campus radio to call for help, May said.
“Staff briefly fought with Lira to gain access to the classroom and remove children from her reach,” May said.
When deputies arrived, Lira was barricaded alone in a classroom, where she upended desks, threw things around and undressed and dressed several times, according to the lieutenant. Deputies took her into custody and took her to a hospital for an evaluation, May said.
Despite the description of Lira showing signs and symptoms of narcotics, she tested negative to having substances in her system, her attorney said in court.
“There has never been a test to indicate Ms. Lira has used drugs,” said Corey Wlodarcyzk.
About 25 family and friends showed up to support Lira in court.
“I’ll tell you she’s very well loved, she’s the giver of her community and she just wants to help everyone in her life,” said Wlodarcyzk.
In this case, helping turned into harming.
“She did keep some of the minors from leaving and they were harmed in the process and so we do take that very seriously,” said Paugh.
“She’s scared, she’s never been in the criminal justice system before,” said Wlodarcyzk.
Wlodarcyzk who represents Lira said a previous event of sexual assault caused his client to have an emotional breakdown and last week, something triggered some of those past feelings. He did not indicate what the trigger was.
“Really that’s all we know at this point and we’re trying to figure out more,” said Wlodarcyzk.
Bail was set at $500,000 for Linda Lira, 31, who faces four years and four months in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh. She will be back in court April 9 for a readiness conference and April 13 for a preliminary hearing.