A “creepy” hooded man in a black full-length trench coat seen lurking around Mountainview Elementary School in Saugus Monday morning spooked a mom and her two kids enough to call deputies and spark a temporary “soft lockdown” of the school.
Shortly after 8:45 a.m., deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to “multiple” calls from parents about the man dressed all in black.
They located the suspect and detained him, said Mountainview Principal Kathleen Demsher, who issued an email notice to parents of students.
Sgt. Ericka Gooseberry said the man was arrested in connection with the incident.
One of the several parents who reported the hooded man was Shannon Gerson, who was dropping her two children, aged 5 and almost 4, off at the school’s preschool when she spotted the man as she pulled into the school parking lot.
“He was 3 feet from my car on the driver’s side,” she said, noting her kids were still in the car.
“He had a long trench coat with his hands in his pockets and a big hood over his head,” she said, noting she could only see his eyes and mouth.
“He kept looking at me. It was horrible,” she said.
After her encounter, Gerson said she watched the man walk around school property.
The man started walking to Pacific Crest Park directly next to and overlooking the school, she said, eyeing the school through the chain link fence that separates the school and park.
“He was looking over the fence at the school,” she said, noting “a bunch of us stayed next to the preschool to make sure he didn’t hop the fence.”
“He was giving off a really creepy vibe,” Gerson said. “I just thought he was trying to intimidate people but I don’t know what his motives were.”
“Someone dressed like that shouldn’t be hanging around at our schools,” she said.
Demsher immediately placed the school in a soft lockdown, which means the kids were kept inside temporarily. She then sent an email to the parents of the students.
It reads: “Between 8:20 and 8:40, we began receiving calls regarding a suspicious person walking near the school. Personnel went outside to observe and located the individual described.”
“The individual was behaving in a concerning manner and remained near the school and in the park. Office staff immediately reached out to law enforcement. The school held a lockdown drill to ensure all students remained indoors and safe, just to be sure,” Demsher wrote in her message to parents.
She added: “Law enforcement wanted to give our community and school compliments on how the situation was handled. Parents who called remained nearby to help school staff and law enforcement locate the individual. The landscape falks working in the park also followed to make sure that our school grounds were safe. Having the students in a lockdown drill kept everyone in a safe location.”
Gerson posted her account of the incident on social media and, specifically, on the Saugus Strong Facebook page.
The phrase Saugus Strong emerged from the fortitude and resilience demonstrated by school and staff of Saugus High School after three students were shot and killed, including the shooter, and three other students were wounded, on Nov. 14.
On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt