UPDATED: Report of man carrying rifle brings swift response from Hemet PD
UPDATED: 04/19/2016 7:45 p.m.
Hemet – The report of a man seen carrying a rifle today brought an immediate and overwhelming response from Hemet Police officers and caused Shelter In Place protocols to be activated for about an hour at nearby Cawston Elementary School.
The subject was reportedly seen carrying what a passer-by believed to be a rifle. The person was seen directly across the street from Fire Station #3 and Cawston Park, near the intersection of North Cawston and West Devonshire Avenues. Fearing for their safety, the person who called 911 immediately left the area.
The first two officers arrived within 60 seconds of the initially dispatched call at 2:53 p.m. Upon arrival, they immediately began searching the area for the subject. Other officers began flooding into the area moments later and began to set up a perimeter, in order to trap and locate the reported gunman.
Within the same minute of the call being dispatched, an officer called for City of Hemet emergency communications dispatchers to notify Cawston Elementary regarding the reported sighting of the armed subject. Within minutes, Cawston Elementary had activated their school’s Shelter In Place protocols, to ensure the safety of their students, teachers and administrators.
As officers began searching the area, they quickly identified a nearby field filled with bushes, trees and countless other places someone could hide. A known, homeless encampment is also located in the large, open field; which further hampered the officers’ search. Within one minute of the call being dispatched, officers on scene requested assistance from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Aviation Unit.
Riverside Sheriff’s “Star-92” responded to the area and assisted officers in determining if anyone was hiding within the field, which offered countless places for one or more people to hide.
Shortly after the arrival of the Riverside Sheriff’s helicopter, the aviation crew located first one subject, than at least three to four others, who were hiding under a bush in a northern section of the field. The deputies reported at least four subjects were holding what appeared to be “Air-Soft” rifles with “orange (safety) tips” affixed to the end of the weapons.
Many Air-Soft rifles are so realistic looking – even with their required orange safety tips – they are often mistaken for real weapons and have resulted in fatal shootings by both officers and citizens believing them to be “real” weapons.
The deputies in the helicopter used their public address system to notify anyone hiding in the field to come out from where they were and to walk towards officers waiting near the intersection of Via Barcelona and North Cawston Avenue. Some of the officers responded to the reported incident armed with department-authorized assault-type rifles.
As the four subjects left their hiding spot in the bushes, one was reportedly carrying a small juvenile with them. At least one of those who walked out from hiding was reportedly a female, the rest were males. All were teen-aged, including one young adult.
As the four teens were exiting the bushes carrying the small juvenile, the aviation crew saw that more people were exiting from the southern section of the field, from the homeless encampment. An unspecified number of people came out from that area to waiting officers.
After all the people had exited from the field and the sheriff’s aviation unit verified the field was empty, officers began interviewing all the detained subjects regarding the reported incident.
As of this report, no further information has been released, and it was unknown what, if any, charges might be filed against the teenagers who were carrying the Air-Soft rifles.
In most cases, Air-Soft rifles are legal to own and possess when the orange safety tip is affixed to the end of the barrel.
At 3:59 p.m., about one hour after the incident began, a parent of a student at Cawston Elementary posted on social media that the school’s precautionary Shelter In Place protocols had been lifted. Repeated calls to the school district and school for confirmation went unanswered.
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