Santa Monica police place the suspect in Thursday's threat at SMC into a squad car. (Photo by Paul Alvarez Jr.)
Santa Monica police place the suspect in Thursday’s threat at SMC into a squad car. (Photo by Paul Alvarez Jr.)

SMC — Officers arrested a self-described suicidal Santa Monica College student connected to threats at both SMC and East L.A. College following a lockdown on Thursday morning, according to police.

The Santa Monica Police Department received a threat of a possibly-armed man at SMC at approximately 8 a.m., prompting the lockdown at the college, John Adams Middle School and Will Rogers Elementary School.

Police established a perimeter around the campus, but the 19-year-old suspect turned himself into the college’s health services office, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesperson for the SMPD.

He was also connected to a threat received by the California Highway Patrol at 7:55 a.m. saying that the caller had a gun and was en route to a campus in Monterey Park, believed to be East L.A. College.

That campus was evacuated.

The lockdown of the three Santa Monica campuses was lifted by 9:45 a.m.

The investigation is ongoing, Lewis said.

SMC students, teachers and others affiliated with the campus received calls, text message alerts or e-mails warning them of the situation. Many classes in progress were canceled.

Jay Park, a political science student at SMC, found himself locked in a language lab during the incident.

He and fellow student Stephanie Ramirez, who studies history, were waiting outside of a class that had apparently been canceled trying to turn in a paper.

Ramirez received a call at 8:40 a.m. warning her away from campus, and another at 9:45 a.m. saying that the suspect was in custody.

“I think the school does well,” Ramirez said, referring to the lockdown and attempts to keep students safe. “It’s people. They see stuff happening and they try to take advantage of that.”

At this point, there are no specific procedures to follow during a lockdown of the SMC campus, and informing the campus community of emergencies can be difficult.

Although students, teachers and others can sign up for services that deliver emergency information, some use their home phone numbers, which means they may not get critical details about a situation before it’s over, said Albert Vasquez, SMC’s chief of police.

Officials discovered the discrepancy after a false bomb threat forced a partial evacuation of the campus in late April.

“We’re in the midst of trying to update not only the program, but to see if there’s a better way we can do it,” Vasquez said. “We’re trying to go through and update all of the technology so we will be able to make notifications districtwide, simultaneously.”

That may or may not help teachers giving lectures and students — perhaps miraculously — not on their phones in the middle of class who find themselves in the midst of a lockdown situation.

Towers throughout the campus are being outfitted with public announcement systems so that information can be put out and everyone hears it, Vasquez said.

Some doors can be locked automatically from the campus’ dispatch office, while others must be locked manually, Vasquez said.

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