On a day when high school students walked out of thousands of campuses across the country to advocate for stricter gun control, students at Merced's Golden Valley High School felt terrified, confused and helpless as they were locked inside classrooms following a school shooting threat.
Officers and deputies from several law enforcement agencies in Merced County descended on the campus shortly after an active shooter was reported at about 11:45a.m. Friday, according to Merced police.
Golden Valley School Resource Officer Keith Rieg heard a radio transmission of an active shooter on campus over the school staff's portable radio system, Merced police Lt. Don King said.
Rieg relayed the information to the Merced Police Department, and the school was placed on lockdown.
But officials quickly learned that the report was false, King said. No one was arrested or in custody Friday afternoon.
"We have no evidence of a weapon or shots being fired on campus," King said. "All indications are it's a false report."
The Merced Union High School District also sent out a Facebook post.
"There's been a false report of a threat at Golden Valley," the post said. "Authorities are on the scene investigating — but everything is fine."
But some students didn't know that as they were released to their parents at Joe Herb Park north of the campus.
"I got pretty frightened, I'm not going to lie," said Julian Sandoval, a 15-year-old sophomore. "It was a terrifying experience."
Sandoval said he was in fourth period gym class when the school went on "immediate lockdown." The students in the class huddled by the bleachers .
"Some were laughing because they thought it was a joke, some were saying it was real," he said of the students around him.
One female student started crying and panicking.
"I saw her and I started getting a little paranoid," Sandoval said.
At one point, the group of students heard someone coming outside the gym.
"My heart dropped, I was really scarred," Sandoval said. "Everybody was backing up and I thought someone was here, and someone was going to come shoot at us."
But a wave of relief flashed over the students when officers came in.
Meanwhile, parents started to swarm the perimeter law enforcement had set on Childs and Parsons avenues. Many of them were on their phones either trying to contact their children or taking video of the scene.
Serina Vargas' son texted her that the school was on lockdown, and that he thought there was an active shooter, but he didn't hear any gunshots.
"The first thing I say is 'I love you,' I'm going to the school right now," Vargas said.
Vargas said her son was home-schooled but she re-enrolled him into the public school system at Golden Valley so he could experience the social aspect of high school life.
"Now this," she said. "I promise you after this he's getting home-schooled. It's too stressful, it's just too much."
Merced resident Bernadette Soares was at a nearby church when other parishioners told her the school was on lockdown.
"I was terrified," Soares said. "I instantly wanted to cry, I was upset, it's a horrible feeling not knowing whether your child is OK or not."
Officers slowly let groups of students out to reunite with family at Joe Herb Park early afternoon, King said, adding that school administrators had accounted for every student.
Officials also checked the entire campus a second time as a precaution, King said.
"We're very interested in determining the origin of the (false report)," King said.
During the search, officials located an unattended school radio, King said.
"It's possible a student could have gotten a hold of the radio," King said, adding that law enforcement will be investigating the transmission.
Friday was a "National School Walkout" day, loosely organized to support stricter gun control by the student victims of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida school shooting. The day commemorated the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, in which 15 people, including the two shooters, died.
Sandoval said as a student, a shooting threat on the same day was horrible.
"I don't really know how I feel," he said. "Just (thinking) there was a person on the school with a gun, I got pretty terrified."