The aftermath of the false threat

The Walnut Valley Unified School District plans to implement more security measures following the false active shooter threat during the fourth quarter of the annual Branding Iron football game Friday, Aug. 17 at the Diamond Bar Holmes Stadium.

With 59.4 seconds left in the game, Diamond Bar fans and football players began clearing the stands in response to allegations of a gunman on campus. Seconds later, Walnut fans ran to residential areas and local stores to take refuge.

“While I was in the stands, I was scared about my family. I didn’t know if they were okay. I heard shouts, yells and people crying. I started shaking a lot and crying, had a panic attack and passed out. I didn’t stop panicking until I saw my dad and sister 30 minutes later,” cornerback and wide receiver senior Peter Santiago said. “I wanted to go back to the field and see if [my family and friends] were okay. You just [have] to be careful. Anything can happen in a good place.”

The majority of Walnut fans, including the Blue Thunder Marching Band, remained in the stands and hid underneath the bleachers under Principal Brandon Dade’s direction. When the threat of an active shooter was pronounced non-credible, students and parents were allowed to evacuate.

“I heard people in the street yelling at us to come back because it wasn’t real, and I got some texts from friends. The next day, I learned what happened,” senior Ethan Yeung said. “We could probably prepare for it next time because, during the whole thing, there was a lot of panic, and not everyone knew what to do except for run. I feel the administration can help us be better prepared for it.”

The source of the threat was the social media post of a Diamond Bar High School student. Both school faculties were uninformed about the situation until the debrief meeting afterward. At 10:19 p.m. the same night, Dade emailed students and parents a summary of the situation, and an official district statement was sent out Saturday afternoon. The district superintendent emailed another message on Sunday detailing the new security measures to be implemented in the following months, including increased presence of local law enforcement, “state-of-art safety measures… facility upgrades… [and] an increased emphasis on the social and emotional wellbeing of our students and staff.” On the following Monday, additional counseling services were provided to students and adults in both schools.

“The reality is that everybody including myself was in fear. But the other reality is when I said everybody get down and stay put, everybody trusted me. And that was one of the best feelings because I want people to understand that I would never put them in an unsafe environment. My goal, after I found out there was no actual shooter, was just to keep everybody safe. The worst thing at that time to happen was to panic,” Dade said.

In addition to the new measures already in place this school year — such as requiring students with a free sixth period to carry identification — Walnut High School plans to implement more training for students and parents in emergency situations. Students have been attending discipline assemblies on Tuesday, Aug. 21 and Thursday, Aug. 23, and parents will be trained on Thursday, Sept. 6.

“When we say Mustang Family or Walnut Valley Family, all the adults wanted to protect you guys like you were our own children. I think we truly act and think like a family, even in the most chaotic or harshest times. I’m just happy that we’re not in a negative place after an experience like that,” Dade said. “I definitely want to make sure you guys feel safe going to school and going to events afterward. We’re going to do things a little differently now just to make sure that people understand we’re going above and beyond.”

By Angela Cao and Phillip Leung, Online and Production leads

Photo courtesy of Christian Villarroel