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Two Costa Mesa teenagers arrested in investigation of possible threat to Estancia High School, police say

Threat post cropped
This photo was part of a social media post that prompted a police investigation into a possible threat against Estancia High School in Costa Mesa.
(Instagram)

Two people have been arrested after a potential threat to Estancia High School was posted to social media, according to authorities.

Lenny Vega, 18, of Costa Mesa and a 17-year-old Costa Mesa girl were taken into custody on suspicion of making terrorist threats, the Costa Mesa Police Department said Tuesday.

The girl, whose name was not released because she is a minor, is a student at Estancia, but Vega is not.

As part of their investigation, police searched two homes and recovered a BB gun that was pictured in an Instagram post that led to the investigation, but didn’t find any other firearms, according to department spokeswoman Roxi Fyad.

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“In light of these arrests, there is no credible threat to Estancia High School,” the department wrote on Twitter.

Police received reports about the post at about 11:10 p.m. Monday, the department said.

A picture that was widely circulated showed a faceless person holding what appeared to be a gun. It had a text overlay saying, “Tell staff and police, this ain’t no joke” and another underneath it saying, “Don’t go to school tomorrow.”

Another photo in a separate post showed a featureless beige surface with the overlay “Sometimes you just gotta say [expletive] it and cause a mass shooting at Estancia Highschool [sic] on December 5th, 2019 at 11:35 AM.”

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Vega and the girl are suspected of creating and circulating the posts, Fyad said.

“Detectives immediately began to investigate,” the Police Department said in a statement at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. “The CMPD school resource officer, school administrators and [Newport-Mesa Unified School District] personnel were made aware of the possible threat.”

School was in session Tuesday morning and no instruction or other activities were interrupted, according to the district.

However, the Police Department is “making sure we have a strong police presence throughout the week” at and around the campus at 2323 Placentia Ave., Fyad said.

The district said it didn’t know whether there was an increase in absences at Estancia on Tuesday, though some social media users expressed concern about attending.

Estancia Principal Michael Halt said in a message posted on the school website Tuesday morning that “the district and law enforcement will immediately respond to all safety concerns, investigate and communicate accordingly. Our schools are safest when we work together as a team.”

School will be in session Wednesday and additional counselors will be available on campus “if any students need assistance processing what occurred,” Halt added in a message posted later in the day Tuesday.

“We hope tomorrow brings a sense a normalcy for students, parents and our staff,” he said. “We appreciate how Estancia High School students handled the situation with maturity, how parents responded to the situation calmly and how our faculty handled the situation with professionalism.”

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City Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, an Estancia alumna whose district includes the campus, said she learned about the potential threat Monday night.

“My first thought was, ‘No way; could this be real?’ But as we’ve seen, it sadly could be real,” she said. “So we absolutely took the threat seriously.”

The incident occurred less than three weeks after a deadly shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita and amid increased vigilance of school violence in the wake of campus shootings around the country in recent years.

Reynolds praised the preparedness and professional responses of school officials and the Police Department, particularly acting Chief Bryan Glass. She also encouraged residents to sign up for Nixle, a platform the Police Department uses to send out alerts and information.

“It’s a scary thought, but we’re confident that the situation is neutralized and it wasn’t the threat it could have been,” Reynolds said. “Estancia is a very safe place for students to be, and probably a best case for everyone is that students get back to school and we kind of refocus on the day to day, maybe with a little extra kindness for each other.”

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Updates:
4:55 PM, Dec. 03, 2019: This article was originally published at 8:29 a.m. and has been updated with additional information.

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