One Costa Mesa teen suspected in possible threat to Estancia High is out on bail, is described as ‘sweet kid’

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.

An 18-year-old man suspected of making a potential threat against Estancia High School in Costa Mesa is out on bail, authorities said Wednesday.

Lenny Vega of Costa Mesa was released on bail Tuesday, the same day he was arrested along with a 17-year-old girl, according to Costa Mesa Police Department spokeswoman Roxi Fyad. Vega’s bail had been set at $50,000.

The other person arrested — a Costa Mesa resident who attends Estancia — was taken to Orange County Juvenile Hall, Fyad said. It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday whether she is still in custody.

The girl’s name has not been released because she is a minor.

The two were arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats.

Lenny Vega, 18, and a 17-year-old girl who is a student at Estancia were taken into custody on suspicion of making terrorist threats on social media, the Police Department said Tuesday.

Fyad said the Police Department sent a filing to the Orange County district attorney’s office regarding Vega on Wednesday morning. But as of 2 p.m., the district attorney’s office didn’t have it yet, a DA representative said.

Vega, who is not a student at Estancia, and the girl are suspected of creating and circulating social media posts that included potential threats to the Estancia campus at 2323 Placentia Ave.

One picture that was widely circulated showed a person whose head was cropped out 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.”

Police first received reports about the incident at about 11:10 p.m. Monday, and Vega and the girl were in custody the next morning. As part of their investigation, police searched two homes and found a BB gun that they said was pictured in one of the posts.

Though school was in session at Estancia on Tuesday, only about half of its roughly 1,200 students showed up, according to Newport-Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman Annette Franco.

About 80 absences were reported Wednesday, she said.

Anthony Lopez and Emiliano Peralta, both 17-year-old seniors at Estancia, said they woke up Tuesday morning to email alerts from the school and Snapchat messages from other students and opted to stay home.

“I feel like everyone already has [school shootings] in the back of their minds. You just have to be ready and run,” Emiliano said.

According to Anthony, Vega attended Estancia High from his freshman to junior years and went to Newport-Mesa’s Back Bay/Monte Vista High School in Costa Mesa for senior year.

Anthony and Emiliano said they would see Vega skating around, but they never talked to him.

Franco said she could not comment on whether Vega attended any Newport-Mesa schools.

Gerardo Olmos, 15, a sophomore at Estancia, said he knew Vega and described him as “a sweet kid” who was “talkative and positive.”

He said Vega lives in the same apartment complex as his cousin and that he would run into him there.

Gerardo said he and his school friends also stayed home Tuesday.

Anthony and Emiliano said they had known the 17-year-old Estancia student since their TeWinkle Middle School days.

Anthony said she is a senior at the high school and described her as reserved and calm. “She was quiet when by herself, but not around her friends,” he said.

Franco said she could not discuss any discipline the Estancia student might face and said that “every case is different, and it depends.”

Under the state Education Code, a student who has “caused, attempted to cause or threatened to cause physical injury to another person” could face suspension or expulsion.

During the Costa Mesa City Council’s meeting Tuesday night, members praised the Police Department for its swift response in the Estancia case.

Acting Police Chief Bryan Glass said the investigation was a collaboration among school district officials, police patrols and the detective bureau that oversees gang matters, school resource officers and primary investigations.

Glass added that “all these types of situations are treated as credible.”

“We have to for the safety of the community ... and to make sure that we are doing our due diligence,” he said.

City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison looked at about a dozen Costa Mesa High School students who were in the audience Tuesday and encouraged them to be vigilant.

“I just wanted to thank residents, the community, students, everyone for a job really well done,” she said. “It takes a village to keep our children safe, and today was a great example of the amazing village we have here in Costa Mesa.”

Franco said school districts nationwide are seeing more of these types of threats and that Newport-Mesa is not immune.

The Estancia incident occurred less than three weeks after a deadly shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.

When such incidents arise, Franco said, “we always fully investigate and work with our Police Department.” This one, she added, underscores a vital point.

“Parents, staff, anyone in our community: Let us know if they see anything,” she said. “Even if nothing comes of it, you never know.”

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2:11 p.m. Dec. 4, 2019: This article was originally published at 1:33 p.m. and has been updated with additional information.