Eunice Rivas was riding the bus to class at East Los Angeles College on Thursday when she received a frantic call from her mother.
The news was swamped with reports of a gunman threatening her school or others in Monterey Park. Rivas' nieces and nephews go to a school in the Alhambra school district, where some campuses had been placed on lockdown because of the threat.
Police said they found the caller across town, in class at Santa Monica College. The caller, described as a 19-year-old male, was detained for questioning.
Schools on both the east and west sides of Los Angeles were returning to normal Thursday morning after the student was detained.
“It costs a lot of money to close down like this, for a lot of people it’s a whole waste of time,” said Rivas, 34, an art student from Huntington Park.
Rivas showed up for her 9:30 a.m. class about an hour early because a project was due, she said.
Shortly before 8 a.m. the California Highway Patrol received a cellphone call from someone saying they were going to go “shoot up” a school, a CHP dispatcher said.
Authorities traced the call to the East L.A. College area and alerted the sheriff’s department substation in Monterey Park, which immediately sent deputies to evacuate the school and notified Monterey Park police. Monterey Park police shut down the city's 10 public schools.
“You see all kinds of weird people here, but I just can’t imagine someone trying to harm others,” Rivas said. “It’s a close community here.”
Santa Monica College was also put on lockdown. Police said that’s where they found their suspect.
Police identified him by the call and pulled him out of class for questioning about 9:30 a.m., said Sgt. Candice Cobarrubias. The student did not have a weapon, she said.
Santa Monica College student Vanessa Barajas, 22, said the campus was far less tense than at schools across town.
“The whole time we heard voices, people closing doors, people talking in the hall,” she said. “We continued class as usual.”
She said there was no announcement about the school being locked down except for an automated message that went to students’ cellphones. Students walked freely around campus as the search continued for the caller.
“Honestly, I felt like it was very unorganized,” she said.
Across the street from East L.A. College, Kaz Tsujimoto and his wife, Amber, were walking their twin 4-year old sons, tightly holding hands. They had just left preschool at nearby Robert Hill Lane Elementary School.
Kaz Tsujimoto had rushed from work in Long Beach to find his kids. His wife came from her job in Downey.
The couple said they were terrified when they heard the news of the threat. They called the preschool and were told that all the children were inside and the school was locked down.
Kaz thought immediately of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., and feared the worst.
"In light of everything going on, it's corny, but you never think it'd happen so close to you," he said. "It's scary. It really wakes you up."
When they finally were able to see their sons, the boys were surprised to see both parents picking them up.
"Mommy, are you here because the police are here?" one son asked her.
By 10:15 a.m., schools in Santa Monica and Monterey Park were returning to normal.
[For the record, 12:15 p.m. May 16: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that Eunice Rivas' brother attends school in the Alhambra school district. His nieces and nephews attend school there.]