Reports of a woman seen pulling a rifle from a bush on the campus of College of the Canyons late Wednesday afternoon prompted a lockdown of the campus and a structure-to-structure on-campus search by sheriff’s deputies.
When it was all over, though, reports of a woman with a rifle turned out to be a woman seen gathering sticks on campus for her child’s school assignment.
“A 79-year-old lady observes this and swears it’s a rifle with wooden stocks,” Lt. Leo Bauer, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said at the close of the lockdown.
Deputies took no chances, as they locked down the entire Valencia campus, shut down the main access road and began a painstaking building-by-building search of COC.
BREAKING: Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station locking down College of the Canyons Valencia campus in response to gun call. Reporter Austin Dave is live at the scene.
Posted by Santa Clarita Valley Signal on Wednesday, January 16, 2019
“We had help from good security staff who went with us side-by-side,” Bauer said, referring to the building-by-building check.
As of 5 p.m., the COC Valencia campus was under lockdown, said Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s Station.
“Deputies are going building to building with campus security,” she said at the start of the lockdown.
As of 6:30 p.m., deputies were still methodically checking out each building on campus, Miller said.
By 6:45 p.m., deputies on the room-to-room search assembled for a debriefing session on campus, one sergeant said..
Those hunkered inside classrooms received the “all clear” soon after that.
COC spokesman Eric Harnish reported at 6:50 p.m.: “All clear. Lockdown is lifted. Classes will remain canceled at Valencia for tonight.”
When deputies first heard of the incident, they received reports of a woman on Rockwell Canyon Road walking toward Valencia Boulevard, near the performing arts center, at one point.
Rockwell Canyon Road, while the building search was underway, remained closed between Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway.
Harnish issued a preliminary statement early in the lockdown, confirming: “The campus is currently on lockdown. I’ll provide more info when I can.”
Faculty were huddled on the floor of an on-campus board meeting. The posters they brought to demand a fair contract were being used to cover the doors, said Signal reporter Brennon Dixson, who was on campus covering the meeting.
Dixson said the meeting at first continued, but soon was called short and adjourned, though those in attendance remained in the meeting room, awaiting the end of the lockdown.
“Most classes are sheltering in place. Sheriff is starting with Hadley (building) and working their way from the top down,” Dixson said at the time. “They will be going in and making sure there’s no threat.”
One person was heard shouting: “I’d feel a lot better if our campus safety was armed right now,” Dixson said.
Just before 6 p.m., faculty received a message from college officials that classes at the college had been cancelled for the evening.
Dixson said the COC board meeting was called back to order after the all-clear was given.