Washington Elementary School in Santa Barbara was placed on lockdown Tuesday morning after witnesses reported seeing unknown men running through school grounds.
Santa Barbara police are calling this incident a hit-and-run in which a Jetta car hit a curb near the school just after 9:30 a.m. and got stuck. Police say two occupants jumped out of the car and ran through the nearby condo complex, hopped a fence and then split up.
At least one was seen by a P.E. coach going through the school campus. The second suspect was seen running toward La Mesa Park.
Police and school officials went carefully through the campus to make sure there was no an intruder. “We started off by kindergarten and went classroom by classroom checking closet doors, bathrooms, sheds, nooks and crannies and went systematically through the whole campus before they gave me the all clear,” said Principal Sierra Loughridge.
Assistant Superintendent Fran Wagenek said lockdown drills take place regularly and if the scene is not as urgent, there is still a shelter in place announcement that allows the students to remain in their desks and continue with class assignments.
The school lockdown was lifted at about 10:30 a.m. after SBPD officers determined the school was safe.
Police say the vehicle associated with the suspects was reported stolen out of Ventura County on Monday. It’s unknown why the car was in the condo complex, but evidence bags were needed in two areas, including a site where some tools were found.
There was some minor property damage related to the crash, according to Santa Barbara police. No one was injured.
Later in the day, police located an individual matching the description of one of the suspects and identified him as 34-year-old Ventura resident Nathan Christopher Stevens. Police say Stevens was one of the fleeing suspects.
The Santa Barbara Police Department says Stevens was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of his arrest. Police are still looking for the second suspect.
Stevens was booked at Santa Barbara County Jail for vehicle theft, prowling, felon in possession of ammunition, possession of stolen property and possession of burglary tools. His bail was set at $50,000.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to call the Santa Barbara Police Department.