About 300 sixth-graders participating in an Orange County science camp in the Big Bear Lake area were locked down about five hours Tuesday as law enforcement officials pursued Christopher Dorner, a man suspected in the killing of three people.
The sixth-graders, who came from an Orange County school district and one in Los Angeles County, were participating in the annual “Inside the Outdoors” camp run by the Orange County Department of Education, said Arthur Cummins, the department’s administrator for safe and healthy schools.
Cummins declined to name the participating school districts, citing privacy concerns, but said the 300 students were spread out among three camp sites located in remote areas between Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead.
“We’ve had no communication with them,” said parent Claudia Garcia of Buena Park, whose sixth-grade son left for Big Bear early Tuesday morning. “My son is pretty strong, and I think he’s one of the kids who will calm the other kids down. I talked to him beforehand, and he said, ‘Mom, this guy wants to kill cops, not random kids.’ ”
Garcia considered keeping her son home this week but relented at his insistence, she said. Garcia’s son attends Buena Park’s Raymond Temple Elementary in Buena Park.
“I honestly thought (Dorner) wasn’t there anymore, so I thought he was going to be OK,” Garcia said.
Cummins said the cabin where Dorner reportedly was holed up is about a 30-minute drive through rugged terrain from the nearest of the three campsites.
Orange County education officials consulted with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department before deciding to send the sixth-graders to the camps this week, Cummins said.
The campsites went into lockdown around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, about the same time Bear Valley Unified schools were locked down in response to reports that Dorner had engaged in a gunbattle with law-enforcement officials in Big Bear.
“At this point, there are no plans to take them home prematurely,” Cummins said.
About 600 sixth-graders who participated in last week’s Orange County science camps also were locked down Thursday afternoon, after Dorner’s torched car was found near Big Bear Lake, Cummins said. That earlier group was transported safely home the next day, Cummins said.
By SCOTT MARTINDALE/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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