City of San Fernando resident Marcos Ramos was released from custody Friday, Sept. 16, after he made an alleged school shooting threat, alarming parents and staff at the school where he was once employed.
Ramos, 29, has worked at Lorne Street Elementary School in Northridge for the last five years, where he was a one-on-one aide for a special needs student. Ramos suddenly stopped showing up for work, however, around last February, but was not officially released from his position.
Ramos was arrested on Sept. 12 by the San Fernando Police Department (SFPD) on charges of making criminal threats. He had allegedly sent a message to an insurance company in San Diego, threatening a mass shooting at an elementary school if $1 billion wasn’t deposited to his account. No specific school was mentioned.
“I will start a mass shooting at an elementary school if $1 billion is not deposited to my bank account overnight,” the threat read.
Following his arrest, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office didn’t press charges against Ramos, stating in their written report that “at this time, charges are declined based on insufficiency.” Ramos was released four days after his arrest.
Judge Grants Temporary Gun Order
A judge, however, granted a temporary gun violence restraining order against Ramos (filed by the SFPD) that prohibits him from having guns or ammunition for up to 21 days. A hearing will be held at a later date to decide if it should be made final. If so, Ramos will be prohibited from owning firearms for up to five years.
SFPD has asked the district attorney’s office to reconsider filing charges against Ramos. SFPD spokesperson Lt. Irwin Rosenberg said the district attorney’s office has up to a year to reconsider.
Lack of Communication
For some parents whose children attend Lorne Street Elementary, the first sign that something was wrong came on Thursday, Sept. 15, when the school went into a “modified lockdown.” The official response given was that a threat was made by a “community member.”
For parents like Sandy Anger-Hernandez, who has an 8-year-old daughter with special needs, they had to piece together what was happening on their own. Anger-Hernandez read the article about Ramos’ arrest written by the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol newspaper and, knowing that he used to work at the school, she put two and two together.
She, along with other parents, want to know why the threat to shoot up a school wasn’t considered serious enough to let them know when it was first made or when Ramos was arrested or released.
They are now asking why it appears that the authorities, including LAUSD, want to keep it “under wraps” and why it had to be learned about through outside sources.
“He could have walked into Lorne Street Elementary easily,” Anger-Hernandez said. “Did it cross my mind to not send her to school? Of course it did, you know, with all the incidents that have been going on throughout the world.”
“I just think that there should be more [police], not just because an incident happened that we’re going to start patrolling, but that there should always be patrols.”
Another parent, who chose not to provide her name, recalled getting an eerie feeling on Thursday when dropping off her child. She eventually found out about Ramos’ arrest. She said she wanted to be more informed of the situation, but said she was told by the school that they were getting “trickle down” information from the Los Angeles Unified School District.
With Ramos’ release, she is scared that something could still happen at the school.
“I am still nervous,” she said. “Parents need to know to make a judgment call to send their kid to school or transfer them to a different school.”
In a statement to parents and guardians sent last Thursday, Lorne Street Elementary Principal Lisa Elan said, “Local authorities are currently investigating these statements but have assured our school community that our campus is safe. School authorities have also determined our campus to be safe and our school remains open for instruction.”
The following Friday, Elan sent out another message to parents and community members saying they were taking immediate measures to protect the well-being of students and staff.
Those steps included hourly perimeter gate and fence checks by supervision staff, an increase in patrols by school police and increased communication with local law enforcement.
The message also advised parents to ensure their children are aware of the school’s safety procedures, create safety plans with them, ensure their emergency cards are up to date and to report any suspicious behavior in or around the school.
In neither message was it made clear who the community member was nor the nature of the threat.
The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol reached out to Elan, but she declined to comment and abruptly hung up on this reporter.
While it seems that most parents are unaware of Ramos’ arrest and subsequent release, those that do are frustrated that charges are not being filed against him.
“Several parents are pissed off and angry and they believe that more should have been done,” Anger-Hernandez said. “Unfortunately, it’s the laws and not any one particular person.”
While Anger-Hernandez feels that Lorne Street Elementary is safe for the time being due to the increased police presence, she points out that all surrounding schools should have also been informed, including those that are located in the City of San Fernando where Ramos lives. She points out that they could easily become a target.
Another parent whose child attends a neighboring school and attended the meeting was upset that her school had not been notified.
Anger-Hernandez agreed. “Truthfully, psychopaths are psychopaths. When you have a mental illness, you don’t know what they can do, what they’re capable of.”
A Tense and Nervous Atmosphere
For staff, they were only informed about Ramos after the lockdown was called. An employee who works at Lorne Street Elementary, who spoke to the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol but requested anonymity, said that it wasn’t until around recess that staff was told about Ramos’ arrest, and that the lockdown was out of an “abundance of caution.”
“[I was] shocked because it took so long for us to be informed since … they arrested him on Monday,” the employee said. “We didn’t know anything about that.”
It was also during that same day that they learned Ramos was going to be released.
“I [feel] shocked, scared, nervous, anxiety, anxious, everything,” the employee said. “Because it doesn’t have to happen today. It can happen when the cops die down, when it’s not getting broadcasted on the news. Nobody’s talking about it, not out there.”
Although the staff member said they were only casually acquainted with Ramos, having short conversations here and there, they said staff members who considered him a friend were shocked to learn of his arrest.
The general atmosphere from employees was said to be tense, nervous and scared. The staff member said they contemplated not coming to work on Friday.
“I went because, right now, there’s still cops patrolling everywhere, so you feel safe … but in a couple of months when they’re not there, that’s when it’s going to be even scarier.
“It’s not just our school … but it can be any school. There’s another school a couple blocks away, it doesn’t have to just be our school. … And that’s scary for some of us to think about, even more scary especially with what just happened in [Uvalde,] Texas, it’s ridiculous.”
Parents Want More Information
Parents held a meeting at the school on Monday, Sept. 19, to discuss Ramos and their concerns. Around 100 parents, including six school employees, were in attendance. School administration was not present.
Outside, on the school marquee, was a message that read, “If you see something, say something!” Included was the number for the Los Angeles School Police Department (LASP).
For many of them, this was the first time they heard anything about Ramos or what had occurred. They expressed their concerns that none of it — not the threat, his arrest or his release — was clearly communicated beforehand by the school.
“A lot of parents were pissed at only finding out now,” said Mike Tang, a parent with a fifth grader enrolled at Lorne Street Elementary. “A lot of parents didn’t know.”
Tang said that the meeting was more to take in parent suggestions to protect their children, like asking for more armed patrols around the school, rather than talk about any action that the school was taking. He mentioned that the school police sergeant attempted to assuage some concerns by saying it wasn’t a big threat, but it gave little comfort to worried parents.
“As a parent, I’m heavily concerned,” Tang said. “It’s scary because he had access here before. He knew the staff here.”
Another parent spoke up at the meeting, saying that if he sees something, he will do something about it, like calling the police.
“I will not permit that something happens to my son or daughter,” the Spanish-speaking father said. “Let’s all start to do something.”
From the meeting, a list of questions were written and sent from the parents to LAUSD. The questions were:
— Why are they not communicating with parents?
— How can they ensure that communications are reaching all parents?
— What is the current threat level for the school?
— How long will this situation be deemed a threat?
— Who made the decision to open the school on Thursday and let staff and students unknowingly put themselves in danger?
The parents also put together a list of requests from LAUSD, including full-time campus security, multiple security cameras around the campus, safety drills for kids who participate in afterschool programs and a system to notify parents within one to four hours of a threatening situation.
Anger-Hernandez was also at the meeting, who expressed her frustration that there was a feeling from the school, and even some parents, to keep the situation a secret and not talk about it.
“Why? Nobody could answer why,” Anger-Hernandez said. “We want the public to know, we want them to know, and not just for our school, for other schools surrounding us [and] other schools in his [Ramos’] neighborhood.”
1st Sgt. Boen of the LASP attempted to defend the line of communication, saying that Elan can’t simply send through Blackboard Connect — the online tool for LAUSD to send messages to parents and students — that it has to go through Local District Northwest.
Boen also said that LAUSD gets concerned that, whenever such news blasts go out, attendance numbers go down — which affects how the district gets funds.
Anger-Hernandez countered by saying that the news about Ramos is already out there, and asked why parents can’t try to get the message out themselves through news clippings or social media.
“I was told through many different channels of the police department … if you see something, say something,” Anger-Hernandez said.
She also pointed out that teachers from nearby schools had no idea what was happening and that no other schools in the area were put in a modified lockdown.
She has also said that she notified the letter carriers to spread the article about Ramos to other residents in the neighborhood to make as many people aware of the issue as possible.
Anger-Hernandez also took umbrage with the fact that teachers were going to walk the perimeter of the school for potential threats, as the campus — as far as she is aware — has no school police.
“When did our teachers become police?” she asked. “It’s not right for them. I don’t think the teachers want to be doing that either. And there’s a lot of teachers who were petrified. They were in tears.”
For Anger-Hernandez, her desire to make others aware of the situation is not only out of concern for her daughter, but so other nearby schools can take appropriate steps to protect their own students.
“I don’t care [about] the havoc or the repercussions, who likes me and who doesn’t like me, but if two more people can be made aware than the one person prior, then that’s my goal.”
Eds. note: The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol contacted L.A. School Board representative Scott Schmerelson for comment. His office indicated that they referred our request to Dr. Debra Bryant, Operations Coordinator of Local District Northwest who would be “reaching out.” Dr. Bryant did not contact us by press time.
If you want to report suspicious behavior, you can contact the LASP at (213) 625-6631.