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Teens attack Fullerton College safety officer, swing tomahawk at police, authorities say

A monument sign at Fullerton College
A Fullerton College campus safety officer was hospitalized after being attacked by three teenagers, authorities said.
(Gabriel San Roman)
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Three teenagers were arrested Friday after allegedly attacking a Fullerton College campus safety officer, then swinging a tomahawk at responding police officers, according to authorities.

The assault was reported shortly after 6 a.m. in the quad area of the community college at 321 E. Chapman Ave.

In a statement, college President Cynthia Olivo said the officer approached a group of three young men when one of them appeared to be in medical distress. When he got closer, one of the teenagers began attacking him, the statement said.

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The others joined in, according to the statement, and the three suspects punched, kicked and head-stomped the officer, as well as gouged his eyes. The officer, identified only as a 53-year-old man, was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening facial injuries.

The officer requested backup from campus safety and the Fullerton Police Department.

A photograph of a tomahawk.
The tomahawk-style weapon authorities allege one of the teenagers swung at officers.
(Fullerton Police Department)

When police first attempted to intervene, one of the teenagers allegedly took a tomahawk-style weapon out of his backpack and swung it at the officers. None of them were hit.

All three suspects were subsequently detained and taken into custody. Authorities have identified them as Elijah Balfe, 18; Austin Valdovinos, 18; and a 17-year-old boy who was arrested after a brief pursuit on foot. All three are from Fullerton but none were students at the campus, according to police.

Balfe and Valdovinos were booked into jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, while the juvenile boy was taken to Orange County Juvenile Hall and booked on suspicion of the same charge.

Booking photographs of Elijah Balfe and Austin Valdovinos
Elijah Balfe, left, and Austin Valdovinos were booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
(Fullerton Police Department)

The reason for the attack is unclear. Fullerton police said they have yet to identify evidence of any racial, political or ideological motives.

“I want to genuinely thank our campus safety officers and Fullerton Police for their quick response to this incident,” Olivo said in a statement. “We are very fortunate to be supported by people who take public safety seriously.”

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