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Press Release El Portal Incident

CF62D85D-0014-4FC6-82B7-52ECCBFCE0E7

Escalon Police Department
2040 McHenry Avenue, Escalon, California 95320
(209)691-7300 – FAX (209)838-6561
Mike Borges, Chief of Police

Press Release

From: Escalon Police Department
Date: 5/14/2019

This release is our effort to dispel misinformation, speculation, and rumor about an incident on the El Portal Middle School campus on May 13, 2019. This is a brief synopsis of the incident and the information obtained, not a detailed report.

On May 13, 2019 at approximately 9:45 AM, The Escalon Police Department received a call from El Portal Middle School staff. The school was reporting that they had been contacted by two parents of students who informed them that there was possibly going to be a shooting on campus. The only information that was provided to the school at that time was that the shooter was possibly a family member of a student.

Neither the school nor the Escalon Police Department had been made aware of the threats prior to this.

At 9:53 AM, Escalon Police Officers arrived on campus. By this time, school staff had already spoken with the student’s whose parents had called the school. School staff learned that the students whose parents had called the school, heard rumors filtered through several people about the threat. School staff identified two possible students responsible for the threat and one possible direct witness to the threat.

At this point in time, the school administration did not feel it was necessary to begin notifying parents and asked for the opinion of the Escalon Police Department. It was not deemed prudent to begin notifying parents for the following reasons:

– Two potential suspects (Sources of the threat) had been identified, their bags searched and no weapons were found.
– Because the alleged shooter was an adult who would be coming from off campus, we did not want unknown adults (Parents) arriving at the campus.
– There were no known credible threats, just rumors.
– We did not want to cause panic by spreading unfounded rumors without first gathering facts.
– If parents came to pick up their children while the investigation was unfolding, they could be removing potential witnesses that could provide valuable information.

In speaking with the involved parties, several other potential witnesses were identified and interviewed. The following information was obtained:

On Saturday, a 13-year-old female student was alleged to have stated in an on-line group message that her brother was going to come to the school on Monday and “pop” some male friends of a 15-year-old female in the group message.

The 15-year-old female stated that she and the 13-year-old female had a falling out and were arguing back and forth in the group message. The 15-year-old female stated that the 13-year-old female told her, in the group message that she (the 13-year-old female) was going to have her brother come to the school on Monday to “pop” male friends of the 15-year-old female. The 15-year-old female provided officers with text allegedly copied from the conversation that was saved in a note file. In the format the messages were saved, they could have been easily edited, so their authenticity could not be verified. The text referenced an incident on Friday, but did not contain any threats. The 15-year-old female could not produce any evidence that any type of threat was made by the 13-year-old female. The 13 year old female denied making the threats and denied being in the aforementioned group message. Due to conflicting statements and nobody being able to provide any evidence that this group message existed, it is unknown if it took place.

When the 15-year-old female was asked why she did not report the threat to her parents, the school, or law enforcement, she stated that she did not think that the threat was credible and did not believe that a shooting would occur, but told her friends about it.

The 13-year-old female stated that she had been being bullied by the 15-year-old female and her friends. The 13-year-old female stated that she was uncertain how the rumors started, because she never made any such threat. She stated that in school on Friday, a 14-year-old male student came up to her and began accusing her of “talking crap” and recording him. She denied the accusations and the 14 year old male asked the 13-year-old student if she was going to send her brother after him. She did not say anything; she just shrugged and walked away. The 13-year-old female did not know how the 14-year-old male learned that she had a brother, as she is not friends with him. She believed it was information that he learned from the 15-year-old female.

The brother of the 13-year-old female, a 23-year-old male who does not reside with her, was identified. At 10:54 AM, Escalon Police Officers called an allied agency to contact him. At 11:53 AM, the allied agency informed us that they had contacted the brother at his residence in Stockton and he was unaware of the threats and had no intent of committing a shooting at the school. He agreed to come to the Escalon Police Department to meet with Escalon PD Officers.

By this time, we were able to verify that the threat was not credible. A notice was published on the Escalon Police Department Facebook page and the school made an all-call to all parents.

The investigation continued to determine the source of the rumor. After speaking with several students, the following accounts were provided.

– The 15-year-old female, who alleged that the 13-year-old female made the threats in the group chat on Saturday, had knowledge of the 13-year-old female’s family.
– On Friday, the 15-year-old female told the 14-year-old male that the 13-year-old female was “talking crap” and was going to send her 23-year-old brother after him.
– The 14-year-old male confronted the 13-year-old female, who denied saying anything about the 14-year-old male.
– The 14-year-old male told the 13-year-old female something along the lines of “Go ahead and put your brother on me.”
– By all accounts, the 13-year-old female did not bring up the topic of her brother; the brother was first mentioned by the 14-year-old boy.
– Most accounts have the 13-year-old female responding something along the lines of, “You don’t want that.” The 14 year old male stated that she responded, that she would, but took it to mean that the brother was going to beat him up. He did not take the threat as credible, so he did not report it to anyone. One of the friends of the 14-year-old male reported that the 13-year-old female responded that her brother would come shoot the 14-year-old male. The friend stated that he did not report the incident, because he did not believe the threat to be credible.

The response to this incident was an exercise of an overabundance of caution. Besides the Escalon Police personnel on scene, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office provided personnel to assist. Because of the nature of the rumor, we wanted to have all resources on hand in case there turned out to be a credible threat, which is why there was such a large police presence on campus.

At no time during the investigation was a credible threat detected and nobody was believed to be in any danger, which is why the school was not put on lockdown and parents were not notified until we had enough factual information to disseminate. Please keep in mind that if a credible threat was detected the school would have been put on lockdown and parents would have been unable to enter the campus or pick up their children from the school until it was deemed safe to do so. The reason parents were allowed to come onto campus to pick up their children was due to the fact no actual credible threat was ever identified.

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