In a stunt that seemed to be lifted from a movie, a man drove a car onto the campus of Eagle Rock High School on Monday, crashed into the girls' gym, then tried to escape by ramming through a metal gate, police said.
Bobby Joe Perez, 41, of Glendale was arrested after his car got hung up in the gate, Los Angeles Police Sgt. Bill Maarschalk said.
Perez had locked himself inside the car, forcing officers to break the windows to remove him, Maarschalk said.
No students or faculty members were injured, but many were shaken by the 9 a.m. incident.
"It was scary," said Principal John M. Anderson, who tried to grab the keys from the car when it was stopped while the driver crashed repeatedly into the gymnasium foyer walls.
Anderson said it was reminiscent of a movie.
"Fast Times at Eagle Rock High, right?" he quipped, referring to a popular film about a rowdy Southern California campus.
The incident caused thousands of dollars in damage and released hazardous asbestos that had been sealed inside the gymnasium doors for insulation, Anderson said.
Airborne asbestos is a suspected cancer-causing agent, and the gym will be off limits to students and faculty for several days while a cleanup is conducted, the principal said.
Police and school officials were uncertain about the motive for the incident.
Investigators said Perez apparently had made offensive remarks to three girls who were playing tennis at courts near the school. When the students walked to campus to report the man to their teacher, Perez followed in his car, driving up steps leading onto the campus and chasing the girls across the school courtyard to the gym, police said.
School officials said it was fortunate that most students were inside classrooms.
"If it had been two minutes later, the whole campus would have been outside changing classes," said Janet Lord, a physical education teacher. "We were incredibly lucky."
Perez sustained minor injuries when his car struck the gate, police said. He was taken to Glendale Adventist Medical Center for treatment and a blood test to determine whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, police said. Test results were not available.
Later, Perez was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and placed in the jail ward at County-USC Medical Center.
The incident remained the hot conversation topic among Eagle Rock students into the afternoon.
"It was kind of fun and scary," said Marlon Brizuela, 14, a freshman who witnessed the event. "It was fun because you saw the guy driving fast and the girls running to get out of the way. It was kind of scary because he could have hit somebody."