El Paso, Dayton shootings bring jitters, vigilance across Southern California

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

El Paso, Dayton shootings bring jitters, vigilance across Southern California

by Emily Rasmussen, Josh Cain

As the nation mourns for the 31 killed and 50 injured from back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, folks in Southern California are on edge — and so is law enforcement.

Multiple law enforcement agencies in the area saw an uptick in calls for service in the wake of the weekend’s tragedies, and others are carrying out training exercises this week, preparing for  mass shootings. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference on Monday, Aug. 5, informing residents that deputies will be at the ready to respond to active-shooter or terrorist situations.

“Unfortunately, this could easily happen anywhere in Los Angeles County,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “At any time.”

Officials have been monitoring the incidents and responses from the weekend’s mass shootings, learning from how those law enforcement agencies responded, Villanueva said. That also included other incidents from the past, such the controversial response of a Parkland, Florida officer who officials say stayed outside when a shooter killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in February last year.

Every deputy at LA County is trained to respond to such incidents and not just as a group, but also as lone first-responders, he said.

“That’s when you earn your paycheck,” he said.

There were no threats to the Los Angeles County area, Villanueva said. However, the two weekend mass shootings — which followed the shooting in Gilroy that killed three, from one week earlier — led to Sheriff’s Department officials reminding people to be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious behavior.

On Monday, it appeared that folks have been heeding that advice.

That morning, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a call about a grenade near Lake Balboa, which drew the bomb squad to investigate and led to shutdowns of nearby streets. There was no threat associated with the grenade, which police said was inert.

Meanwhile, in Riverside, police responded to the city’s downtown area after getting a call about “someone on the roof of a building with a firearm” at around 8:30 a.m.

The call came from a Riverside County Department of Veterans’ Services facility. According to Officer Ryan Railsback, a Riverside Police spokesman, a homeless man seeking to be treated at the building called employees there, then allegedly threatened them when he was denied services because he was not a veteran.

Railsback said the man told employees he was on top of the building with a weapon. That’s when they called police.

When officers arrived, they checked the building and found nothing. But the large police response stirred up some jitters.

“No one was on a roof with a gun,” police said in a Monday statement, “and there was no active shooter as circulated online.”

Railsback said police saw “a lot of social media activity” due to the police response in a busy area of downtown Riverside.

“We’ve seen this before, after a big shooting,” he said. “It can easily lead to a higher level of concern in the community.”

Railsback said the homeless man who allegedly made the threat “was known to the (department’s) homeless outreach team.” He said the team was working on finding the man, who remained under investigation for a suspected misdemeanor threat.

One report of a man with a gun Monday had some truth to it, but the weapon turned out to be a BB gun, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

The call started at the Walmart in Temecula in the 32200 block of Temecula Parkway. Just before 11 a.m., deputies went to the store after getting calls about a shoplifter.

When authorities arrived, they found the man and discovered the BB gun in a bag he was holding.

The police activity at the Walmart led to concerned residents posting to Facebook looking for information about what was going on, with some claiming there was an active shooter at the store. In photos of the incident, shoppers at the Walmart could be seen gathering outside the building.

After the man’s arrest, sheriff’s deputies said there was “no threat” to the public. “Business has resumed,” they said

It’s not clear if the Walmart was placed on lockdown and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department officials have not responded to a request for comment about the incident.

At around noon, San Bernardino police said the department’s dispatch center was “receiving many calls” about a report of businesses somewhere on the east side of the city being locked down.

“This is false,” the department said in a Monday statement. “We have no activity involving any sort of lockdown or major incident in the area.”

The agency called the report a “rumor circulating on the internet,” but a San Bernadino police spokeswoman had not returned a request for comment about how the rumor started.

The Long Beach Police Department said they also experienced a slight uptick of call volume on Sunday, Aug. 4. The department said if a threat is deemed credible, the department will work with its partners to keep residents and visitors safe.

An example of those efforts, department spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said, was the department’s response to the FBI arrest of a man suspected of plotting to detonate an explosive device at an April rally in Long Beach. Authorities said the suspect, Mark Domingo, sought to “commit mass murder” by planting a bomb at the Bluff Park rally site, but was arrested when an FBI source went to place the bomb at the location the night before.

Still, Long Beach police made their presence known at the event.

“We had all available resources at the park and prepared for all possible scenarios,” Chavarria said.

The Long Beach Police Department will also be teaming up with Cal State Long Beach’s police department force in a pre-planned active-shooter training exercise at the school’s campus on Friday, Aug. 9.

Deputies at the Lakewood Sheriff station will also be participating in a pre-planned active-shooter training scenarios on Tuesday morning at Hoover Middle School. LA County Sheriff’s personnel will simulate mass-shooter situations, and practice making threat assessments, rescues, tactical combat scenarios, casualty care, situational and tactical awareness.

“We all hope we never have to put this training to use in Lakewood,” station Capt. David Sprengel said in a statement, “but I want our community to know that we do everything we can to be prepared to keep them safe no matter what happens.”

All credit goes to Emily Rasmussen, Josh Cain
Originally published on https://www.dailynews.com

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