OCEANSIDE, Calif. -
An Oceanside primary school pupil reported an alarming encounter with a possibly armed man on the outskirts of the campus Tuesday, prompting a lockdown until police determined there was no such threat.
Shortly after noon, the girl told a teacher that she and two fellow Laurel Elementary School third-graders had just seen a suspicious gray-haired stranger outside a perimeter fence while playing at recess.
According to the student, the man may have been carrying a gun and ordered her and her companions to "Run, run run," which they did, according to Steve Lombard, a spokesman for Oceanside Unified School District.
All pupils were kept in their locked classrooms while officers searched the campus and surrounding areas, finding no armed person or any other threat, Oceanside police Lt. Leonard Mata said.
Authorities gave an all-clear about 1:20 p.m., a dispatcher said.
The pupil's description of the possible gun sighting was tentative and sketchy, prompting school officials to believe she likely was mistaken, according to Lombard.
Still, about 75 parents were sufficiently concerned by the incident to take their children out of school early, the spokesman said.
Parent Rachel Roberts spoke to 10News as she waited for her daughter outside of the school.
"[My daughter] means the world to me," Roberts said. "She's my baby."
"[I was] really scared," said Roberts' seven-year-old daughter, Rachel. "I didn't know what was going on."
Parents told 10News they received a call with a recorded message that alerted them to the lockdown.
"It was terrifying," Roberts said. "You just hope everybody is OK when you get here. You hope everybody is safe."
It was the second time in less than three weeks that security concerns forced a lockdown at the campus near the intersection of Interstate 5 and state Route 76.
On Dec. 20, a man left a recording on the school's voice-mail system about 4:15 a.m., claiming that there would be a shooting there later in the morning and ending the message with "maniacal laughter," according to Mata.
The bogus threat prompted administrators to keep all students secured in their classrooms for the day as police searched and patrolled the campus and surrounding neighborhood.
The next day, detectives arrested 61-year-old Alex Paul Rodriguez of Oceanside on suspicion of phoning in the menacing message. Police found no evidence that the suspect owned any weapons or intended to carry out any sort of attack at the school, and the motive for the alleged crime was unknown, Mata said.
Investigators were able to trace the call to a cellphone owned by Rodriguez, according to police and prosecutors.
On Dec. 31, the suspect pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of making a criminal threat. A judge allowed him to remain free on $50,000 bail pending trial but ordered him to stay clear of Laurel Elementary School.
"They're just sick in their mind," Roberts said of people who threaten schools. "They're monsters."
She told 10News she plans to hold her daughter closer after what happened.
"You give them extra hugs before they go to bed," Roberts added.