Los Banos

Student stabbed Thursday morning near Los Banos Jr. High School

A woman and a child watch a student who was stabbed at a park near Los Banos Junior High School on Thursday being loaded into an ambulance. A fire drill was being held there because of work being done on campus.
A woman and a child watch a student who was stabbed at a park near Los Banos Junior High School on Thursday being loaded into an ambulance. A fire drill was being held there because of work being done on campus. mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com

A 13-year-old junior high student suffered multiple stab wounds Thursday in a Los Banos park during a fire drill at his school.

The victim suffered cuts to his arm and injuries to his abdomen. The boy was airlifted to University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. He was in surgery Thursday afternoon and listed in stable condition, Los Banos police Cmdr. Jason Hedden said.

A 14-year-old classmate has been arrested in connection with the stabbing. He was booked at the Iris Garret Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex on suspicion of attempted murder, Hedden said.

Investigators seized a “folding knife,” believed to be the weapon used in the attack, police said.

The two boys know each other and got into some type of argument just before 10 a.m. during the fire drill at the junior high campus at 1750 San Luis St. Students reportedly were in the park as part of the evacuation exercise, police said.

No other injuries were reported.

After the stabbing, school staff members followed the 14-year-old at a distance to a dirt field about two blocks from the campus. The staff members convinced the suspect to get down on the ground and then relayed the teen’s location to police, Hedden said. He was apprehended without incident by officers a short time later.

Police said no other suspects are being sought, but the investigation is continuing.

“At this time, we believe this was an isolated incident,” Hedden said. “So far there is no indication of either the victim or the suspect having any gang connections.”

In a news conference held in front of the school late Thursday, Los Banos Unified School District Superintendent Steve Tietjen said the incident was sparked by personal problems between the two boys, possibly involving “money or a girl.”

According to Tietjen, neither student has had a disciplinary issue since November. The previous issues did not involve bullying and were unrelated to Thursday’s incident.

Tietjen said routinely the more than 1,500 students are split between two areas of campus for fire drill exercises, but because of work on one of the school’s fields, the park was used instead.

About one-third of the students were in the grassy area at the time of the incident, according to school officials.

Tietjen credited a substitute physical education teacher, staff members and campus security for the apprehension, which was the reason the campus was not put on lockdown following the attack. “There was no reason to lock the school down,” he said.

Tietjen said the district plans to look into ways to prevent future incidents from happening.

“We do everything that we can to eliminate this kind of behavior, but we need community and parent involvement,” he said. “Parents need to make sure that their students are coming to school ready to learn and not coming with weapons.

“I would hate to have our system go to a point where we have to treat students like we’re in an inner city and have metal detectors at the gate,” Tietjen said.

Several parents picking up their kids Thursday said they were concerned for the safety of students.

Daniel Torres, one of the concerned parents, was picking up his 12-year-old daughter and a nephew after school. He said he thinks the school did what it was required to do to ensure the safety of students, but wished he would have been notified about the incident.

Denise Robinson, a parent who was at the news conference, said she would like to see the district implement a random search on the kids.

The school is already gated and locked, but Robinson said if the gates are there, take it a step further to ensure more safety. “Why have it locked if you’re not going to take care of the other part?” she said.

A phone message was scheduled to go out Thursday telling parents about the incident and a flier was sent home with students.

Classes were already canceled for today because of the Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, but psychologists will be on hand Monday for those who may need someone to talk to.

According to school officials, there are four full-time security officers employed on campus as well as two part-time officers.