Three Thermal Schools Evacuated, Two Students Detained

City News Service

(CNS) – Two middle school students were detained Wednesday after a handgun was taken to Toro Canyon Middle School, prompting the evacuation of three Thermal schools, authorities said.

At 10:10 a.m., deputies responded to the area of Avenue 66 and Tyler Street on a report of a threat at Toro Canyon Middle School, Sgt. Brandi Swan of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department told City News Service.

Sheriff Chad Bianco said a student was seen at a bus stop with a handgun Wednesday morning. He said sheriff’s deputies responded to the middle school campus, but that at some point in the morning the handgun was passed to another student.

RSO deputy takes one person into custody after school evacuations in Thermal.

“We went and retrieved that student and a backpack containing the handgun,” Bianco said. “Under closer examination of the backpack, there was an object that appeared to be in the likeness of a grenade, so out of abundance of caution for school staff and for our students that are here in school, the decision was made to evacuate the school.”

A 13-year-old and 14-year-old juvenile were detained at the scene, according to Bianco. No one was injured during the investigation and evacuations Wednesday.

“We will be determining the consequences of their behavior,” Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Luis Valentino said.

About 3,700 students from Las Palmitas Elementary School, Toro Canyon Middle School and Desert Mirage Middle School were evacuated to neighboring schools, with buses brought in to carry students off campus to be reunited with parents.

The suspected grenade turned out to be a toy radio device, Bianco said.

“I want to congratulate our students for notifying the right people so that this investigation could take place,” CVUSD Board President Bianca Torres Hall said. “I want to congratulate our staff for collaborating and for making this transition easier on our kids.”

CVUSD board member Jocelyn Vargas wrote on social media during the evacuation that parents should not be “alarmed.”

“We are following the directions of the sheriff’s department as a precaution,” she said. “There have been no incidents but we are following all measures to keep all students safe. The district is sending directions to parents on where they can pick up their students.”

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

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