A Moorpark High School 10th-grader who left a threatening note on campus Thursday morning later committed suicide by jumping in front of a train, officials said.
The Tierra Rejada Road campus was locked down about 8:20 a.m. when the 16-year-old left a note in the counseling office saying he was going to harm himself. Officials later searched the entire school, and students were sent home early.
Authorities would not disclose the contents of the note, but they believed the student might also hurt others, said sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow.
“There was a point today where that young man was conflicted,” Buschow said Thursday. “He was either going to take his life alone or he was going to bring violence to that school and then himself.”
School officials called 911 when they read the note, then immediately began searching the campus for the student, but he had already left, said Kelli Hays, an assistant superintendent with the Moorpark Unified School District.
About 9:10 a.m., a person was hit and killed by an Amtrak train near Los Angeles Avenue and Hitch Boulevard. Investigators were not sure the two incidents were related until the body was later identified as the student.
“When a train hits a pedestrian, it causes devastating injuries,” Buschow said. “We were suspecting it might be him, but we couldn’t identify him because of the injuries.”
Buschow did not know if any weapons were found on the student.
More than 70 law enforcement officials responded to the school to search for any threats before allowing students to be released about 10:30 a.m. The district also temporarily locked down nearby Arroyo West and Mountain Meadow schools.
After the high school was evacuated, it was searched again, with a bomb squad and police dogs, but they did not find anything related to the student.
“We didn’t know if he had left anything; that’s why we needed to check the school,” Buschow said. “We wanted to take every precaution to ensure the safety of people at the school.”
No other injuries were reported.
Officers went to the student’s home to talk to his parents, Buschow said. He wasn’t sure if the home was searched but said that would be standard.
The school remained closed for the rest of the day, but classes were expected to resume Friday with increased law enforcement on campus, Buschow said. Grief counselors also will be available Friday, Hays said.
“Tomorrow is the last day before break,” Hays said Thursday. “We felt it was important to provide an opportunity for students who may need support.”
The district also plans to provide a link to resources on its website Friday, as well as a statement about the incident, Hays said.
Authorities will continue to investigate several aspects of the incident, Buschow said, including whether the student acted alone. They’re also investigating what might have led the student to make the threats and then take his own life.
Buschow said he couldn’t discuss what officers had learned so far, although all indications are that the student acted alone.
Hays said she was not authorized to release any information on the student.
The school has had drills to prepare for an incident like this, Hays said. And the lockdown went remarkably smoothly, Buschow said.
“It was like a perfectly executed drill,” he said. “But it wasn’t a drill.”
Students and teachers were advised to stay in their classrooms until the school was evacuated. A long line formed outside the school as parents went to pick up their children. Students were also allowed to walk or drive home.
“We had a staggered release,” Hays said. “We did not want to add any chaos to the situation.”
Chris Kelley, an instructional data specialist, stood outside the school overseeing the exit.
“We have (more than) 2,000 students,” she told parents. “This will take time.”
As they were leaving campus, some students said they had heard rumors about who the student was, and several named him. But none of them knew him personally or knew anything about him.
Alex Padilla, 17, said when the lockdown was issued, teachers closed their doors and turned off the lights before authorities knocked on the door. Once her teacher opened the door, police had their guns drawn, and students had to show their hands.
“That was scary,” she said.
Alex’s mother, Lisa Padilla, said she was in a “complete panic” while waiting outside for her daughter.
“I’m very thankful she had her cellphone,” Padilla said.
Sebastian Lang, 15, is a foreign exchange student from Germany who was also on lockdown Thursday morning.
“It was my first lockdown,” he said. “You really don’t know what’s going on outside.”
Parents had received messages from school officials informing them of the lockdown, but they weren’t sure of the details.
Liness Coronado was exchanging text messages with her daughter during the ordeal.
“She says she’s fine,” Coronado said. “I’m very nervous; I just want to get to her.”
Kristina Haar was also texting with her daughter, who told her she was inside her English class reading with fellow students. Haar said her daughter told her some students were being taken to the school gym, and she didn’t sound scared. Haar also was relatively calm.
“I’m OK,” Haar said. “Sometimes you just have to leave it up to the authorities, but the not knowing is the hardest part.”