Shooting rumor ruled false by officials

By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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Friday at Lincoln High School “went pretty well,” according to Principal Jay Berns. He was referring to information he gave parents Dec. 20 about a false rumor that someone was bringing a gun to the school on Dec. 21 (last Friday).

Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman said 600 of the high school’s 1,500 students did not attend school Friday. That number includes partial and full-day absences. In comparison, Leaman said, the day before last year’s Christmas break, 200 students did not attend school.

On Dec. 20, local school and police officials said the rumor that someone was going to bring a gun to Lincoln High School and start shooting Dec. 21 was untrue.

School officials made an intercom announcement at 10 a.m. Dec. 20 and Principal Berns sent an e-mail to parents at 11 a.m. to help calm anxiety among students, parents and staff, which is especially acute in light of the school shooting deaths in Connecticut on Dec. 14.

After investigating the rumor and talking to numerous students, Principal Jay Berns said Dec. 20, “there is no validity to the rumor.”

Lincoln Police Sgt. Terry Kennedy said school officials notified the police department at 8 a.m. Dec. 20 and Lincoln Police Officer Steve Krueger, a former school resources officer, investigated the rumor.

Krueger’s findings, according to Kennedy, are that a few students at Glen Edwards Middle School “were talking about what happened in Connecticut when one of them posed the question, ‘What would happen if someone brought a gun to school?’ From there, a rumor spread that someone was going to bring a gun to Glen Edwards Middle School. And from there, the rumor was someone is going to bring a gun to the high school on Friday.”

That prompted a response Dec. 20 to students and parents from Principal Berns.

“Unfortunately, in light of what has transpired in Connecticut this past week and due to the fact that people are hyping up that tomorrow is the ‘End of the World, (based on any interpretations of the Mayan calendar), I shared the following email with staff and students today,” Berns e-mailed parents.

Berns told parents “somehow and somewhere, this unfortunate rumor has traveled to Lincoln High School and is causing everyone’s level of anxiety to rise.”

Berns and Sgt. Kennedy said rumors about school shootings are happening at schools throughout California and the country.

Because of Connecticut’s Dec. 15 school shooting, the Lincoln high school principal said, the Western Placer Unified School District office directed the high school (and all district schools) at the beginning of the school week (Dec. 17) to lock classroom doors while school is in session.

Berns said the high school had not previously locked doors because students “come and go to different activities during the course of the school day.”

Visitors are required to register at the front office.

Berns said he told students and staff Dec. 20 to be aware of who is on campus and to report to the office anyone who appears not to belong on school grounds.

Sgt. Kennedy said patrol officers have been doing extra patrols at schools all week because of what happened in Connecticut and that would continue last Friday.

“The patrol officers are doing the best they can to spend as much time in the area of the schools in between calls,” Kennedy said.

 Sgt. Kennedy, Officer Krueger and Western Placer Unified School District staff met Dec. 19 to discuss school safety.

“Our school has a pretty good safety plan that was in place before all of this,” Kennedy said.

The school district updates the safety plan annually. Assistant Superintendent Mary Boyle is working on the annual safety plan for each site, which is scheduled to go before the school board in January.

Lincoln Police Sgt. Kevin Klemp received a call Friday from a parent who had just heard the rumor and hadn’t heard that a school and police investigation determined that there was no truth to it.

The only incident Friday was with the arrest of  Jeffrey Bookamer, 18, of Lincoln, in the school parking lot after school, according to Lincoln Police.

Bookamer is a Lincoln High School graduate, Berns said.

An officer saw a knife in plain sight and arrested Bookamer for bringing the knife on to the high school campus, according to Klemp.

Klemp said Bookamer was not threatening to hurt anyone.

“We have a few young adults every year bring a knife on to campus,” Klemp said. “Some aren’t aware that they can’t.”