A group of concerned parents from Hubbard Street Elementary School showed up the morning of Oct. 9 at the San Fernando Courthouse to ensure that the man who allegedly threatened their children stayed behind bars.
More than a dozen parents, some with their small children in tow, waited outside the designated courtroom for half the day to see if 30-year-old Antonio Montelongo would show up after he missed last Friday’s court date due to a medical emergency.
School Placed on Lockdown
A chain of events began on Oct. 4 around 8 a.m. at the Sylmar school, when Montelongo reportedly approached one parent and yelled that he had cancer and he was going to shoot all the kids at the school. LAPD and the Los Angeles School Police (LASP) were called to the scene and the school was placed on lockdown, but the police were not able to locate Montelongo. They eventually left and the lockdown was lifted before 9 a.m.
After the police left, Montelongo returned to the school. A few parents recognized him from his description and approached him. Montelongo then began to take off his pants and parents, who said they thought he was reaching for a weapon, tackled him to the ground and held him there until police returned 15 minutes later and arrested him. The school was then placed on a second lockdown.
There are eight charges against Montelongo: three for making a criminal threat, three for indecent exposure and one for trespassing. Montelongo has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held on $100,000 bail.
Judge Nicholas F. Daum gave a criminal protective order for the school – listed under one of the parents’ names, Francisco Acosta – telling Montelongo that he must stay 100 yards away from the school. His pre-trial hearing is set for Oct. 24.
Parents Take Issue With School and Police
The parents at the courthouse felt uneasy with the possibility that Montelongo could be released from custody and were frustrated with how the police and school handled the situation, which they considered extremely serious.
“We’re here to try and make sure this case doesn’t fall through the cracks because LAPD failed us, and so did the Los Angeles School Police,” said Patrick Yates, a parent of a fourth grader.
“The scary part of the whole situation is it was an off-duty supervisor that made the call [for police to leave]. And we all know what happened in Uvalde, [Texas] – it was an off-duty supervisor that told the officers to stand down.”
Yates expressed how disappointed he was after finding out that police left the school unprotected, even after someone who openly made a threat against the students was still out there. It’s that same reason why he’s also upset with the school for lifting the lockdown.
“LAPD showed up and let the school know they were on lockdown … but they left. They didn’t leave any officers,” Yates said. “They abandoned our children.
“What was terrible was that we didn’t get half this information until the next morning when we were in a meeting to explain everything out to us,” Yates continued. “Even then, the principal [Joseph Casas] did not know that the individual exposed himself. … And also, they sent an officer who wasn’t even there to talk to us about what happened.”
The school police are patrolling the school, but Yates claims only after he called them on Friday asking them to be there.
Despite Montelongo’s threats, Yates said he’s glad the parents who tackled him didn’t injure him any further and hopes he gets the help he needs.
“What I want to see is him get help so he can be a productive person in society, but I don’t want him back on the streets right now until he can get that help.”
Parents point out that while Montelongo was later arrested, the time between the lockdowns is a cause for concern. They said some parents tried to take their kids out of school after the first lockdown but were reportedly prevented from doing so.
“There was a parent in front of me saying, ‘I’m here to pick up my kids’ and then I heard the vice principal [Karina Nichols] say, ‘Oh, no, we’re not going to release any kids,” Susanne Pelayo recalled. “That’s when a bunch of us moms started getting a little crazy and saying what do you mean you’re not going to release our kids. … We’re going to take them home because we don’t feel [they’re] safe staying here knowing that the guy is still out loose and there’s no cops here in the school.”
Pelayo, who came to pick up her daughter, said the vice principal eventually relented, but told the parents that it would be marked as an absence. More than a week later, Pelayo still doesn’t understand why the vice principal wasn’t letting them pick up their children.
Pelayo told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol that in the meeting the next morning, the vice principal was asked directly by that same parent for her reasoning, but she instead denied ever saying so.
“There’s no good communication between the principal, vice principal and the parents because I feel like so many things are being brushed under the rug,” Pelayo said. “We’re never going to let go of this.”
Pelayo said not many parents were able to make it to that Thursday meeting, so most remain unaware of what happened. But those who do know are determined to spread the word as much as possible. Parents have been handing out flyers this week and are talking to other parents.
“So many parents … weren’t aware that the lockdown was lifted before they caught the guy,” Pelayo said. “They’re like, ‘I’m not going to send my kid back to school until something is done.’ It’s just very crazy. It’s just too much stuff that’s going on at this rate.
“It’s my first time ever dealing with something like this, but it’s just crazy how the school is hiding so many things. We, as parents, feel that the school is hiding so many details.”
Threat was Taken Too Lightly
One of the parents handing out flyers was Norberto Pablo Martinez, who was the first to tackle Montelongo to the ground. He recalled rushing over to the school, where his grandsons attend, when he noticed cops around the area and asked them what was going on.
He spotted Montelongo approaching the area where the kindergarteners were playing and taking off his pants. Martinez and other parents ran towards him and tackled Montelongo to the ground, who had already exposed himself.
“I asked him why he wanted to harm the kids. He said, ‘I want to kill them,’” Martinez said. “I asked him, are you using drugs? He said no. Do you have a mental problem? He said no. Then why do you want to hurt the kids? He said, ‘I want to kill them all.’”
Martinez said his grandchildren are still in school, but only because Montelongo is in custody.
The grandfather said he wants Montelongo to either be sent to jail or a mental health institution on top of being listed as a sex offender for life. He also wanted the charges elevated to felonies but said the district attorney decided not to because Montelongo didn’t make a threat to a specific person.
“We’re in jeopardy because the justice system is taking this too lightly,” Martinez said. “This [case] is not against me, it’s against our children and they can’t protect themselves. So who’s going to protect them? … We need the justice system to protect our children.”
There is another school meeting for parents scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13, at 9:30 a.m. with the police sergeant who called off the first lockdown.