LOS ANGELES – A second day of violence shook the Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday, with the shooting of a school police officer prompting officials to seal off a large swath of Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley and place about 9,000 students on lockdown for hours.
More than 300 Los Angeles police officers swarmed through the valley looking for the gunman, blocking people from entering or exiting a seven-square-mile area. Inside the schools, students said they had no access to water or restroom facilities. In at least one classroom, students relieved themselves in buckets placed in a closet.
The shooting occurred just before noon adjacent to El Camino Real High School, where Officer Jeffrey Stenroos was patrolling. A gunman fired multiple shots at Stenroos, hitting him in the chest. But a bulletproof vest prevented the bullet from penetrating Stenroos’ body, and his injuries are considered minor.
The shootings came a day after a student brought a gun onto the campus of Gardena High School, south of downtown Los Angeles. The gun accidentally went off in a classroom, police officials said, hitting two students.
The incidents brought a collective shudder through the district and calls for better security in and around schools.
“We’ve never had two days like this in my 19 years here,” said school board member Steve Zimmer. “Guns in and around school create a special kind of fear.”
Incoming LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy promised to launch an assessment of all high schools in the district to make sure they are following a district policy that requires random weapons searches be conducted every day. He said Gardena High School had violated district policy by not doing enough random weapons checks of students.
About four hours after Stenroos was shot, a 16-year-old student at Bell High School, near Los Angeles, was shot and wounded about a half block from the campus. In that case, a gunman in a black truck opened fire on the boy as he was walking home from school.
But the main focus of the LAPD remained in Woodland Hills. LAPD officials described the perimeter as one of the largest in recent memory. At the peak of the search, nine schools in the area were on lockdown.
The incident began when Stenroos, an eight-year veteran of the Los Angeles School Police Department, spotted the suspect next to the campus of El Camino Real High School involved in some kind of illegal activity, possibly breaking into cars, police said. He confronted the man, who pulled a gun and fired multiple rounds, hitting the officer once in the chest.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the officer fell back and hit his head, but was able to stumble to his patrol car, where a civilian helped him make a radio call for help.
The suspect, described as a white man in his 40s wearing blue jeans and a bomber jacket, fled the scene on foot.
Stenroos was taken to Northridge Hospital Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition.