By Nethan Sivarapu, Kyle Fujisaka and Maxwell Taniguchi-King
Ongoing questions remain in the Oak Grove neighborhood after two different bomb threats led to evacuations the week of Nov. 18. Following the arrest of Andrew White, who is a suspect in both bomb threats, community members reported a lack of information and expressed continued safety concerns.
See below for a video highlighting Oak Grove community members’ perspectives on the recent bomb threats and their aftermath:
On Nov. 18, an Oak Grove High School staff member discovered a suspicious package on the school campus. Students and faculty from Oak Grove, as well as the two charter schools co-located on that campus, were evacuated to a nearby park after being on lockdown for nearly three hours.
Police later informed the public of the mysterious package, which was discovered to be an incendiary device with a homemade bomb as well as a bottle filled with flammable liquid with a fuse.
Teachers have said that the reason for the lack of communication was due to all three schools’ staff members not being sure of what could be said in order to prevent panic from occurring. Oak Grove shares a campus with two other schools, Summit Public Schools: Tahoma, and KIPP: Navigate, which all experienced this event.
Students felt that the three hours between the lockdown and the evacuation of the school was a long time and that the evacuation could have been done quicker. Tahoma junior Herschel Marcelo said, “I think the only thing that could’ve been a lot done better was trying to get students out quicker.”
Several students and staff members felt that the lack of communication caused a sizeable amount of uneasiness among the community; however, they understood why the police did not say much to the public. When asked to describe the events, many students and teachers felt lost or confused, with the only information they had coming from social media and other students.
Overall, the Oak Grove community respects the police’s decisions and their execution of these plans.
Tahoma teacher Daniel Duong said, “I thought everyone did a really good job,” regarding the police and the three schools.
Mr. Duong expressed gratitude with the police’s action when he said, “I thought the police did a really good job of managing the situation of keeping kids in classrooms and letting us know where we should evacuate and when we should evacuate.”
Tahoma Executive Director Jonathan Stewart and several students expressed a similar outlook on the police response. Marcelo said, “I think the police did a really good job.”
Many students, however, are still confused about the procedure of Code Blue, or shelter-in-place. This was evident on Dec. 5, when students were once again in a Code Blue, due to a nearby fight, and found themselves unclear of what the situation was and what to do during the lockdown.
Although a clear plan is in place for Code Blues in school, many students felt frustrated with the faculty for their inability to keep the students full informed. Tahoma junior Collin Dang said “they kinda left the students in the dark” and that “the whole process was pretty useless.”
When asked about the process, Mr. Stewart stressed the importance of communication and spreading the right information to parents and students in order to make the Code Blue process safer.
Mr. Duong also emphasized communication during Code Blues when he said, “It’s important to keep the students and teachers informed on the situation.”
Also a resident of the Oak Grove neighborhood, Mr, Duong experienced firsthand the events of both the school bomb threat as well as a bomb threat in his own neighborhood.
An overnight standoff with Mr. White and the San Jose police occurred on Nov. 21, which ended in his arrest. Investigations revealed firearms and materials believed to be used in making explosives located in his house.
Several residents in the area were evacuated by police and pulled out of harm’s way.
“In my knowledge, of the short time that I’ve lived here, the police have done a good job,” Mr. Duong said.
Mr. White was arrested for numerous charges including possession of firearms and homemade explosives at his residence in the 5000 block of Tyhurst Avenue. However, no clear connection has been found between Mr. White and the incident at Oak Grove.
Mr. White is currently being held in Elmwood men’s jail in Milpitas. He has been convicted of possession of narcotics and grand theft auto in the Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties in the past. Neighbors have described him as disruptive and loud. He often rides around in his motorcycle and works with fireworks and explosives during the night, disturbing those in neighboring houses.
In interviews conducted two weeks after the incident, an acquaintance of Mr. White’s by the name of O.B. said he believes that Mr. White was not responsible for the incident at Oak Grove.
Other neighbors in the surrounding area expressed their viewpoints on the safety of the school and the neighborhood in the past. One neighbor, Alex Alegria, said, “Always had fireworks go off in the middle of the night, always went off for years.”
Another neighborhood resident, Rose Watters, claimed that the area is becoming more and more unsafe, saying, “I’m having to put barricades on the inside of my door.”
Although several neighbors claim that the Oak Grove neighborhood is growing unsafe, many have claimed that the police have done a good job in keeping the neighbourhood safe so far. Watters said, “I just hope my home can feel safe again.”
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