Following a tip from law enforcement in Brussels, Belgium, police on Friday arrested a Torrance middle school music teacher for allegedly possessing child pornography.
Eric James Mitchell, 36, surrendered to Torrance police officers, who pulled over his vehicle after he drove off the Calle Mayor Middle School campus. Although many of the region’s schools are closed for spring break, Torrance schools were in session this week.
The lead investigators are agents from the Homeland Security Investigations division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We don’t have any indication at this time that this individual victimized any of his students, but that’s certainly a concern whenever we’re investigating a child pornography suspect who has close and ongoing contact with children,” special agent Joseph Macias said in a statement. “We’re still in the very initial stages of reviewing the evidence in this case and we encourage the public to come forward if they have further information."
A search of Mitchell’s home resulted in the discovery of possible illegal images. Officers seized a desktop computer, external hard drives and other digital equipment.
The Torrance Unified School District placed Mitchell on unpaid administrative leave. He started with the school system in September 2014, and, according to the district, previously worked as a substitute teacher in Long Beach.
“I am working with the district administration to ensure our music classes continue without interruption,” said Principal Dave Mosely in a letter emailed Friday afternoon to parents.
Mitchell has no arrest record, according to a law enforcement source close to the investigation.
Late Friday afternoon, Mitchell was being held at the 77th Street Division of the Los Angeles Police Department in lieu of $20,000 bail.
“With the advent of the Internet, people who are interested in possessing and trading child pornography … have the ability to share those images around the world, said Virginia Kice, West Coast spokeswoman for the federal agency investigating the allegations. "It’s not uncommon to get leads from foreign law enforcement.”
Members of the public with relevant information can contact the federal agency’s tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or complete the agency’s online tip form.