A student threatened to carry out a school shooting at Palomar College’s San Marcos Campus on April 20, to commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine shooting 19 years ago.
On March 23, a general information email was sent out to the Palomar community from the office of public affairs. The email stated that Palomar College had received a Tarasoff warning, cautioning them about the threat, and that the alleged shooter threat had been identified. In addition, they mentioned no specific people had been targeted and the Palomar Administration had secured a temporary public restraining order against the student.
The student was detained under Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, which grants the jurisdiction of a qualified officer or clinician to “involuntarily confine a person suspected to have a mental disorder” that would indicate a danger to themselves, or others.
According to ABC 10 news, the threat intended on targeting areas surrounding classroom exits from an elevated location. There was no specified individual the threat intended to target, likely the threat meant to shoot as many bystanders as possible. ABC 10 news also reported the student had made threats to the San Diego County Administration Center.
Once Palomar’s general information email was sent to the community, some faculty were left with a feeling of distraught.
“I don’t think that we as employees of Palomar or if I was a student, or anyone, should hear the details about what’s happening on my campus from the news,” Jenny Ferraro a member of the Faculty Senate said. “I should hear it from my campus.”
Director of Public Affairs Laura Gropen, who sent the email, said that the reason the notice was limited in detail, was because information was either classified, or was unknown at the time.
Other members of the Faculty Senate, were upset over the lack of instruction given in the general information email. “If you are going to say ‘red alert,’ then follow that up,” Teresa Laughlin said. “Because we all feel powerless, we need to be able to have a plan.”
Palomar Police Chief Chris Moore, mentioned to the Faculty Senate that as far as law enforcement knew at that time, the shooter threat was not currently in possession of any firearms, and was prohibited from purchasing any firearms in the future.
During the Faculty Senate meeting the week following, Director of Student Affairs Sherry Titus, spoke to board members to provide further insight as to why there was a lack of information given in the email sent by the public affairs office.
Because the threat violated the student code of conduct, it is likely that the student will be permanently prohibited from entering any of Palomar College’s satellite campuses. However, it is up to the Governing Board to make the final decision on that matter, and when they do, they will not be permitted to publish their decision due to student privacy regulations.
Until then, the student must remain at minimum 1,000 yards away from Palomar College, as outlined in the temporary restraining order.
“We will continue to do our due diligence to protect the campus community,” Gropen said in the general information email.