A 14-year-old Newbury Park High School student was arrested Friday after a pipe bomb exploded in a school restroom, and a search by authorities turned up four more bombs in school lockers, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reported.
No one was injured in the 10:44 a.m. blast. About 1,600 students were evacuated while a sheriff’s bomb squad searched the school in the 400 block of North Reino Road.
Deputies said the 14-year-old student admitted making the bombs and was arrested on suspicion of possession and detonation of an explosive device. “We don’t have any motive,” Sgt. Will Howe said.
“Fortunately, the majority of the students were in an assembly for the football homecoming, and so there were no injuries when the explosion occurred,” Howe said. The homecoming celebration went on as planned.
After the explosion, school administrators called the Sheriff’s Department and were instructed to evacuate the school until it could be searched. Students were herded from the rally in the school auditorium onto the football field. Officials later dismissed classes for the day.
“We came out and were going to class when some people started saying there was a bomb,” said 17-year-old student Terri Polkinghorne. “They told us to run to the football field. Everyone scattered. It was a total panic. All these people were running around. People were jumping over fences.”
A classmate, Stephanie Muzzonigro, 17, said most students had not heard the blast. “A lot of people were shocked that there was a real bomb at our school,” she said.
The bomb was powerful enough to destroy a urinal but did little other damage. The four other bombs were made with plastic sprinkler-type pipe and one had a sprinkler head attached, deputies said.
The recovered bombs were not set to explode, How said. “It was not a booby-trap-type of thing.”
Authorities declined to say what explosive material was used. “They are definitely pipe bombs, but I can’t say how powerful,” Howe said.
The student who made the bombs was identified through witnesses and other information deputies and administrators obtained from students, Howe said. Deputies were still investigating whether other students were keeping the bombs in their lockers or whether they had been placed there by the student who made them.
“We have one student being detained, and he appears to be the only suspect at this time,” Howe said. “Evidently, this guy is the prime mover. Whether or not there are other kids involved, this is the guy who made them.”
Authorities searched about 1,400 lockers after the boy acknowledged making the bomb that exploded and told investigators that there were others, Howe said.
“He pointed out lockers where the bombs were,” Howe said. “He was right on some and wrong on others. We didn’t know if we could trust him, so we searched. . . . We are convinced that is all there is.”
The boy was released to his parents, deputies said.
“This was an act of vandalism, not a prank,” Assistant Principal Bill Manzer said. “It would seem that since they had them on campus, they were going to do something on campus.”
However, Manzer said there were no problems among students that the administration was aware of.
“The only unrest on this campus was that today was our homecoming,” he said.