Berkeley High School Student Arrested for Brandishing Firearm

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 04, 2009 - 07:03:00 PM

Berkeley police and Berkeley High School are still investigating a report made by a student Feb. 25 that he had been threatened by another student from the school with a gun or an imitation firearm at the end of the lunch period. 

School administrators investigated the incident after learning about it but were not able to find any weapons on campus. 

Officer Andrew Frankel, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, told the Planet that Berkeley police were summoned to the campus by Berkeley High staff on a report of someone with a gun. 

“The school staff had already isolated the victim, a 16-year-old boy, and the suspect—who is a year older—and we arrested the suspect for brandishing. He is alleged to have brandished a firearm,” Frankel said, adding that the suspect was also arrested for “committing an act on campus which interfered with peaceful activities.” 

He said that the Berkeley Police Department’s youth service division was following up on the case. 

According to an e-mail sent out last Thursday on the Berkeley High e-tree, an online message board, by Berkeley High Acting Principal Maggie Heredia-Peltz, the school’s safety team worked with the student, the student’s family and the Berkeley Police Department, resulting in the identification and apprehension of the suspect later Wednesday afternoon. 

Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp is on a leave of absence because of a burst appendix. Calls to Heredia-Peltz and the Berkeley Police Department were not returned immediately. 

Mark Coplan, public information officer for the Berkeley Unified School District, told the Planet in an e-mail that the message sent out by Heredia-Peltz was the only available information at the moment, and probably the only information that would be released in light of the fact that the investigation and any hearing or action taken against the suspect would be confidential. 

In her e-mail, Heredia-Peltz assured the Berkeley High community that the perpetrator would not be allowed to return to campus unless the investigation conducted by both Berkeley High and the Berkeley police cleared him of any wrongdoing. She said that if the allegations turned out to be true, the student would face expulsion as mandated by state law. 

Addressing parents and students at Berkeley High, the acting principal said, “We appreciate your support in helping us to keep our campus safe by continuing to report any concerns regarding your student’s safety immediately to an administrator, safety officer, counselor, and/or staff member.” 

Members of the Berkeley High School Safety Committee, formed by the school’s Governance Council to update Berkeley High’s safety plan, said they were happy to see that the school had alerted the community after the incident, a policy the committee has been advocating. 

Don Morgan, a parent-member of the safety committee, said that crime alerts helped parents, students and teachers to be aware of what was happening at the school and its surrounding area, helping students avoid similar incidents in the future. 

“If certain incidents are happening regularly, then parents could instruct their children to stay away from that place,” he said. “We have heard from parents in the past who complain about the lack of information about crime at the high school. The only way they learn about it is either by word-of-mouth or the newspaper. We hope to make these notices a part of the school safety plan.” 

Berkeley police recovered an air-soft gun from the Berkeley High Gym last May which they said at that time might have been used by a 17-year-old Berkeley High School junior who was arrested for robbing a sophomore at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, which is located right across the street from the school. 

Heredia-Peltz also sent out an alert Wednesday about a fire alarm on campus which went off at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday when two popcorn bags started burning in a microwave, setting off all the alarms.