A teen-ager reputed to be part of a white supremacist gang will face criminal charges after allegedly bringing a pipe bomb Tuesday to Palmdale High School, forcing the evacuation of the administration building and bringing the campus to a standstill for two hours.
The youth was not identified because of his age, but sheriff’s deputies said he was a runaway from Lancaster. He was a student at Palmdale High until being transferred this summer to a continuation school because of concerns that his white supremacist views would spark a racial confrontation among students.
The 10th-grader had been on the Palmdale High campus Monday, but was ordered to leave by security personnel. He was also warned that if he returned he would be arrested for trespassing.
On Tuesday the juvenile, who has a shaved head and is believed to be a member of a skinhead group, returned to the campus. For a reason that is unknown to authorities, he was in a tree on the school grounds.
Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Hartzog, assigned to the campus, coaxed the youth down. The boy was then taken to the deputy’s office in the school’s administration building and searched. The device was discovered in a pocket of his trousers.
The administration building was evacuated and students were held in their classes for nearly two hours until the bomb was removed from the campus.
“When it explodes it’s basically a hand grenade,” said Deputy Richard Edwards, an investigator with the Sheriff’s Department’s Arson/Explosives Detail.
The bomb was made from a galvanized steel pipe about one inch in diameter and six inches long. Edwards would not say what explosive materials were involved. It was dismantled Tuesday afternoon at the Peter J. Pitchess Honor Ranch in Castaic.
Edwards, as well as school officials, said they did not know why the youth was on the Palmdale campus or why he was carrying a pipe bomb.
“We’re all very familiar with this individual,” Principal Mikie Loughridge said. “He’s not supposed to be on campus.”
While a Palmdale High student last year, district trustee Billy Pricer said, the student would hassle others. After repeated provocations, the youth was recommended for expulsion. District trustees in July suspended the expulsion and ordered the youth to attend the district’s continuation school.
“Here we try to give the kid another chance,” Pricer said. “He needs additional help. Of course anyone in a white supremacist group needs additional help.”
The youth was held Tuesday at Challenger Juvenile Center in Lancaster on a felony charge of possession of a destructive device. Later this week, he will be transferred to Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
Sharon Moeser is a Times correspondent. John Chandler is a Times staff writer.