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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Santa Paula

School Locked Down During Manhunt

October 05, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

A manhunt for a bank robber Tuesday prompted a lock-down at a local middle school, where more than 1,000 students had to lay on the floor in their classrooms for more than two hours, officials said Wednesday.

A man wearing a ski mask and carrying a large-caliber handgun robbed the First Western Bank, 634 E. Main St., about 1:40 p.m., Police Chief Bob Gonzales, said.

"He was very aggressive, very verbal and very demanding," Gonzales said. None of the 12 customers and employees in the bank was injured.

The robber fled on foot with more than $100 and ran toward Isbell Middle School, where he scaled a fence and ran through a playground where children were in physical education classes, school officials said.

The students didn't know what was going on until school officials sounded a warning that told them to return to classrooms immediately, said Pat Untiedt, a school district spokeswoman.

From about 2 p.m. until shortly after 4:15 p.m., the students were inside their classrooms on the floor while several parents waited outside, Untiedt said.

"We can't have them above window level," she said of the precaution. "We had no idea where this man was and we can't afford to lose a student."

A witness saw the robber run toward the school and a bloodhound used by police tracked the man's scent on the playground and near a school building. Gonzales believes the man scaled another fence and fled the area.

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