Hand grenade scare at Sultana
Dummy grenade was left over from recent demonstration
Five minutes before Sultana High School was scheduled to have a safety drill, complete with a lock-down of the school, a student walked up to the front of the classroom and put a hand grenade on his teacher's desk.
"We were kind of surprised," Sultana Principal Tracy Marsh said Tuesday. "We had, for about a month, a code red drill, just like we have earthquake drills and everything else we're supposed to be doing by state ordinance."
The code red drills are meant to simulate a shooter on campus, similar to the incidents at Columbine High School or Virginia Tech, making the discovery of a hand grenade on campus eerily appropriate.
"Well, we were there when it happened," Hesperia Unified School District Police Chief Bob Mosley said Tuesday. "We go classroom to classroom and make sure that each teacher locks the doors, shuts the blinds, turns off the lights and hides under the tables."
"We got a phone call from a substitute teacher," Marsh said, "Saying that a student had brought up a grenade, and they didn't know where it came from."
The incident occurred last Thursday morning, during second period, shortly after 8 a.m. The day before, military personnel had been at the school, showing off a bomb-disposal robot.
"They came in and they brought in the robotic thing, and it's pretty cool," Marsh said. But somehow, a World War II fragmentation grenade was left behind.
Suddenly, the drill, which had been meant to only take 10 minutes, suddenly took on a whole new dimension.
"It brought a little more meaning to us as a code red situation," Marsh said. Students, teachers and staff "were wondering why it was taking so long. And we were announcing that 'any kids going to the K Wing need to go to ...'"
"Well, I'm thinking 'it's somebody's idea of a joke; somebody got a wind of the code red lockdown,'" Mosley recalled thinking. But they couldn't take the chance that it wasn't a joke. "We treat everything as real until proven otherwise."
Out the evacuees went, into the rain, as the school police and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Bomb Squad entered the class room and examined the grenade.
"The bomb squad guy looked at it," Marsh said, "Picked it up, put it in his pocket, said 'OK, I've got it,' and walked out."
There was a tag on the grenade, put there by personnel at Ft. Irwin, which showed the grenade was inert, but the way it was laying on the desk, no one could see the label until the bomb squad arrived to take a look.
"It was a fragmentation grenade," Mosley said. "It could have killed or maimed several kids. ... Thank goodness it was just dummy ordinance."
In a letter sent home to parents Friday, Marsh indicated he had discussed the incident with the demonstration unit's commander and that the military would be making future visits to the school.
"All in all, it was somewhat of a mistake for the military," Marsh said. "They left it behind, they've been very apologetic. But it gave us a chance to understand why we do these drills."
"The things we have in place," for real emergencies, "do work," Mosley said.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at email@example.com.