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Tear Gas Disrupts High School

Final exams are canceled and the Fountain Valley campus is evacuated. A 17-year-old is arrested.

June 17, 2004|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

Police arrested a Fountain Valley high school junior Wednesday after tear gas was unleashed in a campus bathroom, sending dozens of students and employees to hospitals with breathing problems and disrupting final exams on the last day of classes.

The 17-year-old girl, whom police did not identify, allegedly released the chemical during the first of three exam periods at Los Amigos High School.

Fumes traveled through the ventilation system into an enclosed food court and commons area, causing students and staff to choke and become nauseated.

Emergency vehicles from Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana descended on the school after officials received calls of a suspicious smell.

While hazardous-materials teams investigated the source of the fumes, ambulances took about 30 students and 17 adults to hospitals, where they were treated for minor respiratory injuries, school and fire officials said. Officials evacuated the school's 1,800 freshmen, sophomores and juniors to playing fields. Students were excused from exams in their final two classes and will not be required to make them up, said Alan Trudell, spokesman for Garden Grove Unified School District.

Seniors had graduated Monday and were not on campus.

After classmates identified the suspect, police arrested her on suspicion of "releasing tear gas in public," which can be prosecuted as a felony.

"It was just a last-day-of-school, stupid, yahoo thing that a 17-year-old sometimes does," said Sgt. Kevin Thomas. "But it was pretty disruptive."

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