An elementary school was locked down Tuesday after a man brandished what turned out to be a pellet gun and threatened to shoot schoolchildren, a Stanislaus County sheriff’s spokesman said.
About 12:40 p.m., deputies responded to California Avenue Elementary School on a report of a man with a firearm near the campus. As authorities locked down the campus, dozens of students were removed from classrooms and escorted to the multipurpose building for their safety. During the tense situation, two children were taken away by ambulance because they were suffering from anxiety, officials said.
Deputies went to a home that borders the south side of the campus on Winners Circle. They found a handgun-style pellet gun inside the home and took a man into custody.
Authorities arrested Calvin Tolbert, 49, of Riverbank. He was taken to jail and could be charged with making terrorist threats and brandishing a replica firearm. “He is in custody and is not a risk to students,” said Lt. Keith Rakoncza, a sheriff’s spokesman.
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According to a news release, several students had been playing on the school grounds not far from the home where Tolbert lives. A student kicked a ball into the backyard of the residence and the ball struck a window.
Tolbert came out of the home and yelled at the children, saying he would shoot them if more balls were kicked into his yard. “It was reported that Tolbert was holding a handgun-style firearm while yelling at the children,” the release said.
The students ran away and told school staff what had happened. School officials notified law enforcement and began lockdown procedures to safeguard the schoolchildren.
Units from county probation, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District and Oak Valley Hospital District ambulance also responded to the school, which has 550 students in grades from transitional kindergarten to fifth grade.
Students in classrooms exposed to the south side of the campus were moved to the multipurpose building for security, said Chief Erin Kiely of Riverbank Police Services. The city of Riverbank contracts with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement.
A neighbor who formerly worked at California Avenue Elementary said a man living at the Winners Circle home often complained about noise and school activities. He also yelled at anyone who walked on his lawn, the woman said. “The school has problems with the gentleman who lives in that house,” said the neighbor, who asked that her name be withheld so there’s no friction with occupants of the home.
A woman standing outside the home where Tolbert lives declined to comment.
Daryl Camp, superintendent of Riverbank Unified School District, would not discuss whether the man taken into custody had quarreled with school officials in the past. “We work in coordination with law enforcement to make sure the kids are safe,” Camp said.
Parents gathered outside a locked gate in front of the elementary school about 2 p.m. They were allowed to pick up their children after authorities made sure the campus was secure.
Valerie Foren of Riverbank said she agreed with the way authorities handled the lockdown. “They have the kids gathered together so they can be signed out,” she said.
Students were expected to return to classrooms today.