Security amped at 9 LA schools after officer shot

Associated Press
Ramon Cortines, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District speaks to media outside El Camino Real High School, the site of a shooting of a school police officer  Wednesday, in Los Angeles Thursday Jan. 20, 2011. Nine schools that were locked down after a school police officer was shot near El Camino Real school reopened Thursday under heavy security, a district official said. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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Ramon Cortines, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District speaks to media outside El …

Nine schools that were locked down for hours after a school police officer was shot near a campus reopened Thursday under heavy security, a district official said.

School district police and city officers patrolled at El Camino Real High School and other campuses in the Woodland Hills area of the west San Fernando Valley. Crisis counselors also were on hand, but normal classes were held.

"We feel that our students are safe and secure," but the extra security presence may comfort anxious pupils, said Robert Alaniz, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

He did not immediately have figures for school attendance.

The shooting happened Wednesday morning on a street just outside El Camino Real. Some 9,000 students were held in classrooms for hours at area middle, elementary and high schools as police searched for the suspect. Some were finally allowed to leave long after dark.

Officer Jeff Stenroos was struck in the chest by a bullet when he confronted a man breaking into cars but his body armor stopped the round, authorities said.

He was released from a hospital Wednesday night, and Alaniz said he was helping police with a sketch of the man, who escaped despite the huge manhunt.

More than 350 police officers, sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers scoured 7 square miles around the school.

Three schools in the "hot zone" — the immediate area near the shooting — kept students in classrooms for hours without access to food or bathrooms, Alaniz said.

Students in schools closest to the shooting were kept to classrooms on police orders, Alaniz said. They were unable to be sent food or go into the corridors to reach the cafeteria, and they were not allowed to leave to use the bathroom. Some said they used a trash can in a closet as a makeshift toilet.

Alaniz said it was necessary for safety.

"The last thing we want is for some kid wandering to use the bathroom being taken hostage or being caught in a crossfire," Alaniz said. "You have dogs that are searching, you have SWAT teams with guns."

Some parents complained, but school officials said they had to defer to police.

"I'm in charge of the education. I wasn't going to second-guess the police," district Superintendent Ramon Cortines told Fox News Thursday morning at El Camino Real.

Other schools in the search area were allowed to deliver food to classrooms and have students escorted to the bathroom, Alaniz said.

Parents were kept blocks away, but some got text messages from their youngsters. The schools also sent out automatic calls or texts to parents informing them of the lockdown, Alaniz said.

Also Wednesday, a 16-year-old boy was shot in a restaurant parking lot near his high school in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell, authorities said.

A shot fired from a pickup truck hit the Bell High School student in the abdomen, but his vital signs were good when he was taken to a hospital, Bell police Captain Anthony Miranda said.

The shootings came a day after a student's smuggled gun accidentally went off and wounded two 15-year-old classmates at Gardena High School, in a rougher area across town.

While the shootings and their locations were different, Alaniz urged people to be vigilant.

"Violence can happen anywhere," he said. "Crime doesn't have a ZIP code."

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