VISTA, Calif. - A 61-year-old man accused of falsely reporting an impending school shooting near his Oceanside home six days after a gunman killed 20 students and six faculty members in Newtown, Conn., pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge of making a criminal threat.
A judge allowed Alex Paul Rodriguez to remain free on his posted $50,000 bail and ordered the defendant to stay away from Laurel Elementary School.
Rodriguez, who uses a wheelchair, was taken into custody the morning of Dec. 21 at the College Boulevard residence he shares with his wife, according to the Oceanside Police Department.
Rodriguez allegedly left a message on a voice-mail system at Laurel Elementary at 4:15 a.m. Dec. 20, claiming that there would be a shooting there about seven hours later.
"The caller ended the message with what is being described as maniacal laughter," Oceanside police Lt. Leonard Mata said.
Due to the threat, teachers kept pupils inside locked classrooms for the day as police officers patrolled the western Oceanside campus and surrounding neighborhood.
Investigators were able to trace the menacing call to a cell phone owned by Rodriguez, according to Mata.
"Police found no evidence in his home that suggested Rodriguez intended to carry out the threat," the lieutenant said. "No firearms were located. The motive for the threat has not been established."
The threat occurred amid heightened security nationwide in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 pupils and six staff members were killed.
Rodriguez will be back in court Jan. 22 for a readiness conference and Feb. 11 for a preliminary hearing.