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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

2 Moorpark Teens Held for Alleged Bomb Scares

Crime: Both are continuation school students. Police and school officials warn that threats will be harshly dealt with.

May 05, 1999|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MOORPARK — Two Moorpark Community High School students were arrested Tuesday in separate incidents for allegedly threatening to blow up their school, marking the fourth and fifth time a county student has been arrested since last week for allegedly threatening violence.

Authorities say the arrests underscore their determination to crack down on such threats.

"By now, how could [students] not know we are taking this stuff seriously," said Capt. Keith Parks, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department. "Every school, every teacher, every law enforcement official has said so. You don't threaten people and you don't threaten the institutions that we hold dear--like churches, like schools--because it impacts the community and the community won't tolerate it."

One of the Moorpark arrests stemmed from an April 28 incident in which a continuation school teacher overheard a student telling a classmate, "I'm going to bomb this school," said Sheriff's Det. Richard Thomas. The teacher immediately called police.

"The teacher took the threat as credible," Thomas said. "But knowing the kid, she did not think he would carry it out unless he had immediate access to explosives."

Investigators said the boy admitted making a bomb threat and was arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats, a felony, on Tuesday.

In the second incident, a school administrator found a student wandering in a restricted area of the campus on April 21, said Det. Charles MacDonald. The teacher confronted the student, who said, "I'm looking for a place to hide my pipe bomb," MacDonald said.

Moorpark Community High School Principal Gabino Aguirre was out of town during the incident, investigators said, so the administrator sent the student back to class.

Eight days passed before Aguirre found out about the student's comment, prompting him to suspend the teenager and call police. That student was also arrested Tuesday on suspicion of making a terrorist threat, MacDonald said. In both cases, authorities searched the students' homes, but found no weapons.

Parks, however, said investigators do not need to find bombs or guns to make an arrest.

"It's not so much a question of could they or would they follow through," Parks said. "If they made a terrorist threat, the act of the threat is a crime in and of itself."

The arrests follow a wave of threats that hit area schools last week, including some that led to students being taken into custody.

A former Fillmore High School student was arrested April 28 after allegedly telling a teacher at that campus he was planning to bomb the school. The following day, a 15-year-old Newbury Park High School student was jailed on suspicion of posting an Internet hit list that named the principal, a teacher, and several classmates.

The same day, 18-year-old Jose Carlos Herrera, a Hueneme High senior, was arrested on suspicion of possessing explosive devices and bomb-making material after at least eight pipe bombs were discovered in his bedroom. Authorities initially said the student had plans to bomb the school, but later retracted that statement, saying the rumors were unfounded.

In addition to the arrests, several campuses received calls warning of bomb threats, causing officials at Moorpark High School and Buena High School in Ventura to evacuate students. Each call, authorities said, was later determined to be a hoax.

Authorities believe the threats and rumors of impending violence have been fueled by last month's tragedy in Littleton, Colo., where two students killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.

"I think they are playing off that a little bit," Parks said. "There are a lot of kids out there who are immature; they think they are being funny and they're not. I don't think they realize what they are doing. But a lot of them are intelligent enough to understand, and they're doing it out of spitefulness, they're doing it to raise havoc."

Law enforcement and school officials said parents should talk to their children about the severe consequences of making phony bomb threats and that even jokes are being taken seriously.

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