‘Somebody will come forward,’ police chief says after shooter hoax at Turlock High

Police worked Wednesday to identify the person whose false claim of an active shooter led to a scary lockdown at Turlock High School.

The suspect in Tuesday’s emergency is believed to be male, Sgt. Russ Holeman of the Turlock Police Department said, but his age and other details were not known.

It all started at about 12:30 p.m., lunchtime on the Canal Drive campus. Police said the officer assigned to Turlock High was advised about a shooter via one of the portable radios used by the school staff.

Other officers arrived in as little as three minutes and started searching the buildings, Police Chief Nino Amirfar told the City Council in the evening.

“The call itself makes your heart drop,” he said. “It would make anybody’s heart drop.”

The lockdown required students to stay in the cafeteria and other rooms while police searched the campus over about 90 minutes. They determined that there was no shooter, Amirfar said, and no one was injured.

The response also meant lockdowns at nearby Julien Elementary School and Sacred Heart Elementary School.

Amirfar said the response was based on planning done well in advance by his department, the Turlock Unified School District and other partners. This included updates for parents via social media and the police telephone lines.

Amirfar said the suspect could face a misdemeanor charge of making a false police report. The state Penal Code sets a sentence of up to six months in county jail.

“It’s not severe,” the chief said of the penalty. “If somebody was hurt, it would be a different story.”

The report at first had students and staffers thinking that Turlock High was the latest in a series of mass shootings around the nation. They have happened at schools, stores, churches, festivals and other venues.

“Someone will probably come forward,” Amirfar told the council. “I believe a few of the high school kids were not happy having to be locked up in one classroom for an hour.”

People with information about Tuesday’s report can call Turlock police Officer Matt Ulrich at 209-668-1200. They also can contact the department’s tip line at 209-668-5550, extension 6780, or tpdtipline@turlock.ca.us.

Tuesday’s response also included the Turlock Fire Department, American Medical Response, the Ceres Police Department, the county sheriff’s and probation departments, state parole officers and police at Stanislaus State University.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.