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Police step up presence at EU, Sierra, & Manteca campuses

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POSTED March 23, 2018 1:02 a.m.

Even with the arrest of three Weston Ranch students who authorities believe are behind the threat to shoot students on the South Stockton campus this morning, Manteca Police aren’t taking any chances after a verbal rumor swept through the city’s three high schools Thursday afternoon prompting panic among students and parents.
This morning, the police will have an increased presence at Manteca, East Union and Sierra High Schools to both provide enhanced safety and security and calm fears that parents may have after the rumor fueled a social media blitz prompted some parents to call for classes to be cancelled and students to stay home.
A joint statement from the Manteca Police Department and Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke – representing the district – that was posted Thursday evening on the City of Manteca’s Local Government Facebook page aimed to inform the public and calm concerns as the rumor continued to swirl.
“In response to a growing community concern for school safety both the Manteca Unified School District and the Manteca Police Department are working together to ensure the safety of staff and students within the district,” the statement read. “We have noticed a social media post indicating unverified verbal rumors which threaten our schools. Currently, district administration working directly with the Manteca Police Department have not located a source to deem the threats viable.
“As a precaution, the Manteca Police Department and district administration will have an increased presence at Manteca High School, Sierra High School and East Union High School.”
While Lathrop High School was not mentioned specifically in the rumor that began circulating on Thursday, Lathrop Police Chief James Hood confirmed that his officers would be maintaining a strong presence at the school on Friday morning in the wake of the events of the last week and the threats against Weston Ranch, which is just up the road from Lathrop, and the three Manteca High Schools.
But at least one Manteca Unified high school campus will breathe a little bit easier after those believed to be responsible for threatening the student body – and sending shockwaves of fear through the community – were apprehended.
On Thursday, the Stockton Police announced they had arrested three juveniles in connection with the violent threats against Weston Ranch High School that prompted dual investigations by the Stockton and Stockton Unified Police Departments.
After the first threat was posted to social media on March 20, investigators learned that a second threat was posted in a similar fashion the following day – eventually being able to identify a 14-year-old Weston Ranch High School student as the perpetrator of the initial threat. Detectives were then able to identify a 15-year-old former Weston Ranch High School student as well as a 14-year-old One Ambition Manteca student that made the second threat.
All three suspects were taken into custody at their homes and booked at the San Joaquin County Juvenile Justice Center. A search of each of the residences turned up no weapons.
“Weston Ranch High School and Manteca Unified School District will seek immediate expulsion for those attending our schools,” Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said in a statement. “We want to thank the Stockton Police Department and the Stockton Unified School District Police Department for their immediate response and continued support during this difficult time.
“The safety of our students and staff is our number one priority, and we will continue to be vigilant.”
In the last month Stockton Police have arrested five juveniles for making threats against schools within San Joaquin County after a pair of students were taken into custody – one in late February and one earlier this month – when they were discovered to be behind a number of violent threats against Venture Academy High School in Stockton. Just like with those believed to be responsible for the Weston Ranch threats, searches of the respective homes turned up no weapons.
Both Stockton police agencies investigating the threats had publicly pledged to maintain a strong presence on the Weston Ranch campus this morning – along with officials from the district – to calm any fears about the prospect of school violence.
Since the Manteca and Weston Ranch incidents are unrelated – two social media posts were used to threaten Weston Ranch while Manteca schools are facing an unconfirmed verbal threat – the Manteca Police will still be present at each of the three comprehensive high schools in the city to ensure student safety. 
“We understand there is a heightened concern for the safety of students and staff; we encourage you to stay vigilant and continue to report any suspicious activity to your local police or school administration,” the joint statement from Manteca Police and the district read. “Please take a moment and remind your children that making any threat on a public school, business or other establishment is a serious matter.
“The consequences could have a lifelong impact.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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