APTOS, Calif. (KRON) — Aptos High School students returned to school Friday for the first time since one of their classmates was stabbed to death on campus.
One freshman said she was terrified when she saw Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies rush into the school with guns drawn Tuesday afternoon. The victim was found bleeding by the pool and deputies were not able to save him with CPR.
The school went on lockdown immediately after the attack. An hour later, deputies arrested a 14-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy on suspicion of murder.
The suspected killers were found inside school buildings with their classmates on lockdown, investigators said. They may have been trying to blend in to evade arrest.
The boys were booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of homicide. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Ashley Keehn said law enforcement authorities are not releasing the identities of the suspects, nor the victim, because they are all minors.
Several students witnessed deputies hauling two of their classmates away in handcuffs. Lisa Murphy, whose son is a sophomore at Aptos high, said the suspects’ and victim’s names are no secrets to students.
“They probably knew more than the police officers did,” Murphy said.
Aptos is a tight-knit oceanside town, and the stabbing sent shockwaves through the community.
As nervous teens arrived for class Friday morning, a group of community members held up signs, hand-painted with hearts to show students love and support.
Robbie Bellue’s son was friends with the victim.
“He just wishes he was there to stop (the attack),” Bellue said.
“(The victim) was a good boy. He made good decisions. He was very likable. He wasn’t a guy that had an edge. He was just a loveable human being,” Bellue said.
“I can’t imagine what the family is going through,” he said.
Teachers told KRON4 that they were allowed to talk about the stabbing with their students for 15 minutes before resuming regular instruction.
Deputies said they believe students have cellphone videos of the deadly stabbing, and they are asking students to help investigators by turning in those videos.
The 17-year-old suspect has a violent criminal past, Keehn said. Both suspects are gang members, she added.
Some parents expressed outrage to KRON4 that the Pajaro Valley Unified School District eliminated School Resource Officers from Aptos High School last year. Deputies had provided security on campus for many years, but the school board voted to sever ties with SRO’s.
“What is the safety plan now?” one parent asked.
Keehn said the Sheriff’s Office is ready to have deputies return as SRO’s whenever it receives a green light from the school district.
“We are ready to staff that again. School safety is a number one priority,” Keehn said.
“No child should go to school and not come home,” Keehn said.
On Friday, school board president Jennifer Holm and Vice President Jennifer Schacher, issued the following statement:
“Our PVUSD community is reeling after the tragic event on the Aptos High School campus last Tuesday. It is heartbreaking to lose a student – a child – under any circumstance. And to have those circumstances include violence in a place that should be a haven for safety and learning highlights the fragility and vulnerability of our community.”
“As Board President and Vice-President, we wish to assure you that we are hearing your concerns and are committed to working with our community in providing direction for how to support safety at all of our sites. Our superintendent, Dr. Michelle Rodriquez, has been working tirelessly with site leaders and community partners to provide much-needed support to grieving students, parents, and staff. Sheriff Jim Hart has assured us that we have his department’s full support in maintaining site safety. We are holding forums to
provide our community much-needed information about what to expect in the next few weeks.”
“For the long term, we recognize the need for further conversation as a Board around the issue of having School Resource Officers on campus. Facing a crisis like this highlights the need to reflect and reevaluate past decisions. Therefore, pending the Board’s approval for an additional meeting, we will have a special
board session on September 15, 2021, at Landmark Elementary School. We felt that this issue needed the full attention of the board and community, and providing for its own meeting allowed for that focus.”