Siblings held in apparent foiled California school shooting plot; assault rifles found

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Wednesday that a security officer at El Camino High School near Whittier overheard the teen "say that he was going to shoot up the school sometime in the next three weeks".

Although the boy claimed his comment was a joke and investigators did not uncover a specific plot, Los Angeles County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell said it showed the need to take every potential threat seriously. Inside, authorities with the Los Angeles Police Department said they found two AR-15 rifles, two handguns and 90 high-capacity military grade magazines.

In a letter posted online Wednesday, Superintendent Hasmik Danielia of the Norwalk-La Mirada school district said officials were cooperating with the police and have maintained regular drills involving active shooters.

According to the principle of the school, students can not possess electronic devices while class is in sessions. One of the rifles was registered to the brother, but the other was unregistered, McDonnell said.

The sheriff said the brother is facing charges of possession of an assault weapon and other violations and that the teen had an extensive disciplinary history at school.

Both McDonnell and Elaine Williams, School Safety Chief of the Unified School District, praised Chavez' s response at the press conference, saying the cooperation between "attentive" school guards, community and police is important to keep the campus safety.

After lunch break, when students were returning to class, Chavez said he heard the teen tell someone that within three weeks, there would be a school shooting.

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"In addition, we conduct safety drills regularly and collaborate with local law enforcement to ensure our school sites are secure". The weapons were found unsecured in the home, meaning any resident - adult or juvenile - had access to them. The department is not releasing his name due to the suspect's age.

His 28-year-old brother, Daniel Eriberto Barcenas, told deputies that he purchased the guns while serving in the Army in Texas.

The sheriff credited "attentive" school resource personnel - in particular the safety officer - as well as "diligent" investigators, with preventing what he said could have been a unsafe outcome.

"He did say that he was just kidding, he did not mean it", Chavez recalled. "I'm just doing my job".

An alert security officer at a California high school helped thwart what police and school officials often fear after a mass shooting: a copycat incident.

The sheriff says school threats have been increasing since the shooting at the Florida high school last week.

On February 15, a student who had been suspended told his mother he wanted a school administrator dead. Their home was searched but no weapons were located. Parents, teachers and students said they were afraid to be on campus. "If you don't talk to them, someone else will".

  • Sonia Alvarado