high school student in lockdown
Mikaela Hall was trapped for hours at West Valley College as police searched campus for an armed intruder. (Courtesy of Mikaela Hall)

Mikaela Hall, an 18-year-old Leigh High School Senior who lives in San Jose, was so nervous their hands were shaking.

This morning, the nonbinary student was supposed to be learning about America’s governmental system in a course offered on the West Valley College campus.

Instead, they were hiding behind a Wellness Kiosk, straining their ear to listen to noises outside the door, alongside their professor and about 20 other students.

“It’s been quiet so far, but we did have a man try to open the door,” they said. “I kinda thought, ‘That’s the guy. We’re gonna have to do something.’”

Hall’s heart was pounding.

“The man left us alone for now,” they said.

Traffic had caused Hall to be a little late for school.

After parking, they’d run across the creek bridge to make up time.

Hall was about three-quarters of the way to class—approaching the Language Arts/Social Sciences building—when they got the alarming text.

‘I just ran as fast as I could to my classroom.’

—Mikaela Hall, student

“EMERGENCY. West Valley College LOCKOWN. LOCKDOWN. Armed intruder on campus. Updates on Facebook,” said the 11:02am text which included a link to West Valley College’s Facebook page.

An email from the college, received at 11:03am, outlined three options:

“RUN if you can safely run OFF CAMPUS – No driving cars. Leave belongings behind. / HIDE if you do not know where the threat is or how many suspects are involved, / FIGHT if an intruder comes into your hiding place. / You will be notified as soon as possible when it is safe.”

Hall went with the second option.

“I was near my class when I saw the text,” they said. “So, I just ran as fast as I could to my classroom.”

At 11:32 am, a school spokesperson posted an update on Twitter.

“Police checking for white male seen caring [sic] a long rifle,” it read. “Associated with red Cadillac in Lot 1. Remain in Lockdown. Will send another message when it’s safe.”

Campbell Councilmember Sergio Lopez said it was an “awful” situation the students were dealing with.

“Hoping everyone is safe,” he wrote on Twitter.

Around 12:20pm, Hall described hearing shouting outside the door and some people talking.

“It’s hard to hear,” they said. “No gunshots yet.”

Hall saw some men walk past the classroom. Their professor investigated and “said it looked like officers escorting someone.”

Hall is part of the College Advantage program, for Seniors who have a grade point average of 3.8 or higher.

It allows them to complete their senior year at West Valley College, taking courses not offered at Leigh High School.

Hall was supposed to be headed to Trigonometry at 12:30pm, not cowering behind a kiosk filled with masks.

There was no resolution by 12:43pm, when West Valley gave the next public update.

“Police still searching campus,” the school spokesperson tweeted. “West Valley stay in lockdown.”

Just after 1pm, Hall remained trapped in the classroom.

“It’s mostly silent,” Hall said. “No one’s crying. My professor has been calm the entire time and checking on students/the situation.”

Then, about 1:30pm, good news arrived from the intercom system.

The lockdown had ended and they were free to go.

“I’m relieved that it’s over,” they said. “I’m glad everyone is okay.”

At 1:36pm, the West Valley College spokesperson confirmed on Twitter the campus had been deemed safe.

“The lockdown is over,” a follow-up message read. “Two suspects detained. Replica firearm ONLY.”

Hall was annoyed.

“These people caused so much panic with no actual threat,” they said. “It’s sickening.”

A few minutes after the “ALL CLEAR” was issued, Hall decided to head to their car to hydrate. Classes had been cancelled for the day, but they were still too shaken up to consider getting behind the wheel to drive home.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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