The mother of a student whose father allegedly sparked a lockdown at Estancia High School with a BB gun last month addressed the issue in a letter read to the school board Tuesday night.
A family friend submitted the letter to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. It thanked school administrators for preventing the father from contacting the student. It also alleged he is mentally ill and has violated a restraining order against him before.
"I just wanted to let you know how unbelievably proud I am of the heroic actions of [Assistant] Principal [Mike] Sciacca and Principal [Kirk] Bauermeister, actually the whole office staff," the letter read.
Michael McHugh allegedly showed up at Estancia and demanded to see his daughter Feb. 15.
Sciacca stopped him because school records showed there was an active restraining order barring him from contact with the girl, school officials said.
McHugh became angry and brandished a BB gun designed to look like a real pistol, according to police.
The assistant principal tackled and disarmed him with Bauermeister's help, according to eyewitness accounts.
The school board on Tuesday honored the two administrators and school security guard Xavier Castellano, who ran through the hallways warning classes.
"Every teacher, every student was unbelievable that day," board member Martha Fluor said.
The family friend read the mother's letter aloud during the ceremony.
"I'm just in awe at the tremendous courage these guys showed in confronting a mentally ill man with what was thought was a firearm, all to protect their students, my daughter. They are true heroes in my eyes," the friend said, reading from the letter, which referred to McHugh as the mother's "ex."
It described her receiving a text from the daughter saying Estancia was on lockdown because of a gunman and the realization that the girl's father could be the cause of the scare.
"After the initial shock wore off, I was angry because for the past three years I've been telling judges and police all the times he's been violating the restraining order, yet they did nothing and let it go to this," the family friend read." At least the schools paid attention to the order and didn't release her to him."
The Pilot has chosen not to identify the daughter, mother or family friend to avoid identifying possible victims in the alleged crime.
McHugh has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the incident, including one felony count each of assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, threat of injury to a school official and possession of a weapon on school grounds.
He has also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of disobeying a court order for violating the restraining order.