Students and staff told to “RUN HIDE OR FIGHT” as SBPD, Sheriff’s Office searches for suspect.
By SOE HAN THA & MITCHELL WHITE
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITERS
A joint effort to search for 34-year-old suspect Fernando Perez Huerta, of Carpinteria, by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Barbara Police Department took place Wednesday evening near Santa Barbara City College.
The suspect was eventually located and arrested on suspicion of obstructing a public officer, entering a non-commercial dwelling, loitering on private property and an outstanding warrant, said Raquel Zick, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department were searching for Mr. Huerta, who was wanted on a bench warrant for failure to appear in court on felony drug charges, Ms Zick said.
Mr. Huerta was arrested around 7 p.m, Wednesday. Authorities said Mr. Huerta had been known to carry a firearm, but he was not armed when he was taken into custody.
According to City College spokesperson Luz Reyes-Martin, the Police Department contacted the college’s campus security team around 5:35 p.m. to notify them of the ongoing search in the area for a wanted person. The area of interest when campus security approached police officers was a wooded area between the apartment complex Beach City and the college’s library, a region that City College partially owns.
At about 5:45 p.m., there was a helicopter hovering over the campus.
“It was very clear that something was happening,” said Ms. Reyes-Martin. “Campus security officers walked over to Santa Barbara Police officers … Our campus security officers asked police officers, ‘Do you believe this person is armed and dangerous?’”
According to Ms. Reyes-Martin, the response campus security received was “yes.” Upon receiving the response, the campus security team made a decision.
“When we believe there is a threat to our campus, that initiates a lockdown,” said Ms. Reyes-Martin. The lockdown came with a series of alerts, the first two of which were sent by campus security, advising folks to “RUN HIDE OR FIGHT.” According to Ms. Reyes-Martin, the alerts can be sent by campus security, the director of security, and the spokesperson.
“We err on the side of keeping our students and our staff safe,” said Ms. Reyes-Martin, who described the protocol used Wednesday night, including the messages, as standard.
“It’s a pretty standard protocol for instances of an armed intruder or that type of threat,” she said.
Ms. Reyes-Martin also told the News-Press that in a debriefing meeting following the incident, the alerts and their words were discussed.
“We’ll be looking into whether we need to make changes to that messaging,” said Ms. Reyes-Martin. “I completely understand that this field (emergency management and safety) is evolving.”
The strategy to run, hide and/or fight in the face of an armed intruder is recommended by the Department of Homeland Security. According to the governmental pocket card on an active shooter scenario, the steps to take are:
- Run: Have an escape route and plan in mind; leave your belongings behind; keep your hands visible
- Hide: Hide in an area out of the shooter’s view; block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors; silence your cell phone and/or pager
- Fight: As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger; attempt to incapacitate the shooter; act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter