The Stanislaus County sheriff's bomb squad was called to Orestimba High School in Newman, and the school was locked down Wednesday when a suspicious device was found on a staff member's car.
It turned out to be inert; a plastic bottle, with liquid and tissue inside, that had four electrical wires coming out of the top.
Newman police Lt. Brett Short said that through surveillance footage, officers learned another staff member put the object on his fellow employee's car.
When questioned, he said he thought it looked "Christmassy," Short said. Especially given the tragedy at the elementary school in Connecticut, Short pointed out the poor judgment of designing what looked like an explosive device and leaving it on a school campus.
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The staff member was not arrested. "He may have some repercussions through his employer, but not through us," Short said.
The bottle was found at about noon and the school was ordered on lockdown. When school let out at 1:05 p.m., the students were released to the north side of campus and kept away from the south parking lot.
Students parked there were instructed to wait in the cafeteria. There were about 60 cars, Short said.
The bomb squad cleared the scene at about 2 p.m.