A student from Berkeley Independent Study (BIS) was reportedly seen carrying a BB gun at Berkeley High School (BHS) around the end of lunchtime on January 19. School Resource Officer (SRO) Geoffrey Mitchell and two police officers from the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) apprehended the individual in Downtown Berkeley after they had left campus.
A BB gun is a nonlethal weapon, sometimes used as a toy, that shoots metal BBs.
A similar incident occurred in October when two adults entered the school and a student reportedly saw one flash a gun. BHS ramped up its safety efforts in response to this event, some protocols include checking photo IDs of entrants and locking the school’s gates shortly after class begins. These efforts, however, were still unable to prevent the recent trespasser from entering with the BB gun.
The evening after the disturbance, Principal Juan Raygoza sent an email to the school community which informed them of the event.
The email read, “Although witnesses who suspected this individual might have a weapon did not indicate that they had seen a gun drawn at any time, any weapon in the possession of any person on our campus (outside of our SRO) is a threat to the safety and well-being of our school community.”
Raygoza had been notified of a possibly armed individual by BHS administrators, who were alerted by students. Having been alerted, Raygoza and Officer Mitchell responded to the scene and saw the individual leave campus, according to Raygoza. It was not until the individual had been taken into BPD custody that it was confirmed to Raygoza that the suspect had a BB gun.
The occurrence was similar to the October incident when the non-student trespassers were seen exiting campus as Mitchell arrived.
“In this scenario … I identified the individual and saw them leave campus in such a quick fashion that I didn’t have time to call for lockdown,” Raygoza said.
Although the PA system is equipped to announce a lockdown in response to a security threat, both cases resolved themselves too promptly for a lockdown to be necessary. In the case where a lockdown would need to happen, Raygoza said that November’s lockdown drill has prepared BHS staff and students for handling such an emergency.
I identified the individual and saw them leave campus in such a quick fashion that I didn’t have time to call for lockdown.Juan Raygoza, BHS Principal
After the BIS student had been taken into custody, Raygoza and the principal of BIS, Heidi Weber, worked closely to conduct an investigation of the event.
“To all students and staff, if you know of anything that could be dangerous, just alert an administrator and allow us to try to investigate,” Raygoza said.
Academic Choice English teacher Meikko Lee said that she and her colleagues are not told much else about what to do in the case of a security threat aside from alerting administrators.
Considering the school’s safety protocols, Lee said that “they feel a little bit reactionary instead of proactive. Most of the incidents … have been from students who are not BHS students. Yes, there are [fewer incidents] now, but it’s still happening.”
Lee pointed to the issue of having an open campus, paired with sociological tensions caused by the pandemic. She said that an open campus is not the safest option given recent events. “Just because something worked a couple years ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to work now, especially in a pandemic where there’s so much uncertainty, which obviously causes a lot of conflict,” Lee said.