Student arrested on suspicion of Berkeley shooting and bombing

Berkeley High School. Credit: Nancy Rubin

A 16-year-old Berkeley High student turned himself in to police this week following an investigation into a report he had recruited other students to participate in a shooting and bombing at BHS , report the authorities.

Limited information was available Wednesday afternoon when the Berkeley Police Department announced the arrest, but police said they seized “explosive and assault rifle parts, several knives and electronic items that may be used to create additional weapons” at the boy’s home in Berkeley during a search on May 22.

The student, whose name has not been released by police because he is a minor, was arrested on suspicion of possessing destructive equipment and threatening to commit a crime which would result in death or serious bodily harm, according to the BPD. As of Wednesday, he was still being held at Alameda County Juvenile Hall in San Leandro.

The investigation began May 21 when the department was made aware of the boy’s efforts to convince other students “to participate in a school shooting at Berkeley High School that included explosives,” the BPD said in a prepared statement.

Officer Byron White, spokesman for the Berkeley police, said he could not comment at this time on the form of the recruitment, the number of other students who may have been contacted or the possible motivation of the offensive.

Patrol officers worked quickly to obtain a search warrant at the boy’s home, the BPD said. During the May 22 search, the BPD also “arranged for the city’s Mobile Crisis Team to assess the teen,” according to the statement. The boy was at home during the search but he was not arrested at the time.

The next day, investigators from the BPD’s Youth Services Unit took over the case, the BPD said. Detectives spoke to witnesses, reviewed evidence, conferred with other law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, and obtained a warrant for the student’s arrest.

BPD has also communicated with staff at Berkeley High and Berkeley Unified “to update them on any safety-critical information,” police said Wednesday.

The student did not attend school in the days following the search and the boy’s family retained the services of a lawyer, BPD said.

On Thursday, police went to the student’s home to arrest him, but he was not there, White said. Four days later, Monday afternoon, he surrendered to the Berkeley Police Department.

The teenager was eventually taken to Juvenile Hall, White said. Now, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is considering filing charges in the case.

White said he was unable to say whether the student had ever brought weapons to school or taken any action beyond trying to involve his peers.

“Just the fact that he has these items concerns us,” White said Wednesday.

White said the case had raised particular concern for authorities in light of last week’s school shooting in Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead. This incident followed the May 14 mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which killed 10 people.

He said the police were grateful to those who spoke up to alert them to what was happening. BPD still hopes to speak to anyone who may have additional information on this, he said.

The case is still under investigation.

“For all parents, this is a great time to talk with your teen about what it means to stay safe,” White said. “If you see any type of violence, such as active shooter, get out of the area or find a safe space.”

In its statement, BPD emphasized that school safety continues to be a top priority for the department.

“As part of this commitment, the Department has a School Resource Officer assigned to Berkeley High School who regularly liaises with school and security personnel. In addition to the School Resource Officer “, BPD wrote, “all officers have access to a range of training and equipment that provides them with the protection, skills and ability to respond quickly to ongoing violence.”

BUSD says advice will be available on Thursday

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, BUSD released its own statement on the student’s arrest and said it had been in “very close contact with BPD” as the situation unfolded.

“Throughout the investigation period, we have been assured that this individual poses no immediate threat to the Berkeley High School community,” Superintendent Brent Stephens wrote. “In particular, we have relied on the expertise of the BPD in their assessment of any continuing risk to our school community after police confiscated what they describe as weapon parts. We were also in constant communication with the police to find out where this student was.

BUSD said it also “alert our administrative and security staff to this investigation and, as is our usual practice, maintained close contact with our BPD School Resource Manager on the Berkeley High School campus.”

The district said it would conduct its own investigation into the facts of the case and, based on the evidence, would pursue “every possible action, including discipline, that will support student and community safety.”

Read more: BUSD resources on how to discuss violence with young people

News of the arrest follows a shooting at Civic Center Park last week that injured a 17-year-old Berkeley High student.

“We know this incident, as well as the shooting at Civic Center Park last week, can make our students and staff feel anxious and upset,” Stephens wrote. “We will have counseling available at Berkeley High School and all BUSD K-12 schools tomorrow. I encourage our students and staff to ask for help.

BPD asks anyone with relevant information about the investigation to call the Youth Services Unit at 510-981-5715.

Editor’s note: This story was updated immediately after publication to include comments from BUSD and also to clarify that police said they found “parts” of weapons rather than whole explosives and guns. ‘assault. We regret the error and thank our attentive readers for pointing out the omission, which was unintentional.

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