Parents and students from the private Oakwood School reunited early Monday afternoon as a suspect armed with an assault rifle was barricaded inside a nearby North Hollywood home.
The students left the school, often holding hands in long chains, as officers escorted them in small groups. The students headed toward a park where family members were waiting. As the children appeared, some parents broke into applause.
About 2:15 p.m., lockdowns were lifted at the last four public schools affected by police operations: North Hollywood High as well as Colfax, Fair and Lankershim elementary schools. Earlier, Reed Middle School also had been locked down, as had Earhart High, a small alternative school.
None of the public schools was in session, but there was staff on the campuses. About 54 students had been at North Hollywood High picking up diplomas. About 80 students were in a camp program at Colfax.
Los Angeles police Lt. Andy Neiman said the suspect appears to be in a house that officers have surrounded.
"We are very confident the suspect has been contained at this time,” Neiman said, adding, "it is our belief that nobody else is in the home.”
At Oakwood, “the school has sent out an email that the kids are safe and the school is on lockdown,” said a parent, who asked not to be named, moments before the evacuation announcements.
According to the school’s schedule, middle schoolers were supposed to be released at noon. Seniors were to have a graduation practice. Some students also were taking final exams.
The parent added that the school already was dealing with the trauma of students who were hit and seriously injured in a crosswalk last week.
In the earlier incident, one 14-year-old girl was put on life support with head trauma, another suffered a dislocated hip and the third a broken arm, said a California Highway Patrol spokesman last week.
After the earlier incident, the school provided extra counseling and made the week’s final exams optional, said the parent.
The North Hollywood suspect led police on a high-speed chase on several freeways Monday before roaming around a North Hollywood neighborhood with an assault rifle, police said.
SWAT officers were surrounding the home on Hartsook Street. The suspect jumped out of his car around 11:30 a.m. and started running through the neighborhood off Magnolia Boulevard.
He was seen walking through backyards in North Hollywood, then standing on the roof of a home.
A woman who lives on Hartsook Street said in a phone interview that she feared for her safety. She is staying inside her home, adding that the suspect appear to be barricaded in a home across the street.
“It’s really scary,” she said.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times