Officers shot and killed a teenager in the parking lot of his high school in San Diego Saturday morning after the teen called police to check on him and then allegedly pulled out a BB gun and pointed it at the officers.
According to San Diego Police Department (SDPD) Acting Homicide Capt. Mike Holden, the 15-year-old boy called police asking officers to conduct a welfare check on a minor -- himself -- near Torrey Pines High School (TPHS) in Carmel Valley just before 3:30 a.m.
"[In] our preliminary investigation, we believe that the subject that was shot is the person who actually called to check the welfare [of the minor]. We believe that he actually called and spoke about himself in the third person," Holden explained. "It was a very general 'check the welfare' call."
"It was a phone call that 'there's a male juvenile in front of the school, it appears someone should check on him,'" Holden added.
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The SDPD said the caller stated that the juvenile had no weapons.
Two officers -- including an officer specifically trained to deal with juveniles -- were the first to arrive at the parking lot at the front entrance of the school. There, they spotted the teenager standing in the lot.
Holden said that as the officers got out of their patrol car, the teenager pulled a gun out of his waistband "and pointed it directly at one of the officers."
Both officers drew their service weapons while repeatedly ordering the teenager to drop his weapon. Holden said the teen refused to drop the weapon and, instead, "continued to point the handgun at the one officer and then began walking towards the same officer."
Again, the officers told the teen to drop his weapon.
Holden said the officers feared for their safety and fired their guns at the teen, striking him "a number of times."
The teen was critically wounded and taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla where he died a short time later. The officers, a 28-year veteran and 4-year veteran of the police department, were not hurt.
Investigators have now determined that the weapon held by the teen was a semi-automatic BB air pistol, Holden said in a press release Saturday afternoon. The BB gun was recovered by police at the scene.
The investigation is ongoing. Per protocol, SDPD's Homicide Unit investigates any and all officer-involved shootings in San Diego County.
Holden said the teenager killed by police lived in the neighborhood. His family has been notified of his death, police said. His name will not be released by police, since he's a minor.
Torrey Pines High School is part of the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD). Just before 11 a.m., SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill sent an email to parents alerting them of the incident and confirming the teen killed by police was a student at Torrey Pines High School.
Dill's email read, in part:
"I am saddened to report that the 15-year-old boy who was killed was a student at our school. Law enforcement has not released the name of the young man, but our hearts go out to the student, his family, and his friends. The details of the situation are still unfolding, but whatever they are, this event is very traumatic for our students, staff, families, and community."
Dill said a crisis response team will be at TPHS on Monday to help provide support for students, staff and parents as needed.
“If you need to talk to someone about this or just need a place to go to mourn and process this tragedy, counseling services will be available at all of our schools on Monday for anyone who feels they need it,” Dill added.
He said the SDUHSD believes “in communicating openly with our school community about incidents that occur on or near our school campuses.”
Holden said the officers involved in the teenager's shooting were wearing department-issued body-worn cameras, so footage of the shooting exists. Those videos were impounded as evidence in the investigation.
Just one day earlier, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis held a news conference to release videos of three prior shootings in San Diego involving local police officers and deputies.
The DA’s office is responsible for determining whether a crime was committed in officer or deputy-involved shootings in San Diego County. Video from an officer's body camera may be part of the investigation.
Dumanis said the DA's office was releasing the videos Friday in those prior incidents per the protocol reached with law enforcement agencies. She has held similar news conferences in the past to reveal new details about other law enforcement-involved shootings in San Diego.
It is unclear, at this point, if and when the body camera video of the shooting of this teenager at TPHS will be released.
TPHS is located at 3710 Del Mar Heights Rd. and serves students in grades nine through 12.
As the morning unfolded, investigators remained at the school gathering evidence. Although school was not in session, many students began filing onto campus hours after the shooting to take their SATs.
One mother, who did not want to go on camera, told NBC 7 it is unsettling to know a 15-year-old was shot and killed in the campus parking lot.
Another mother picking up her son after he took the SATs at the high school on Saturday said that her family lives in the neighborhood, so the deadly shooting of the teen hits very close to home.
The mother wondered why officers had to fatally wound the teen and why they didn’t use some other less lethal weapon. The mother also said the school district should have moved the testing center to a different school.
As news of the shooting reached TPHS students, the shock of what transpired in their school parking lot set in.
"Everyone's in shock and everyone's surprised," TPHA junior Hayder Alamar told NBC 7. "Right when I woke up I got a lot of text messages from my friends saying 'Did you hear about the shooting at the school?' And at first I didn't believe it."
"I'm really scared if it's someone I know or a friend or a classmate or anything,"the student added.