Local parents questioning student safety after armed robberies

Loomis liquor store and Penryn gas station robbers escaped on foot
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Parents of Del Oro High School and Loomis Grammar School students have safety concerns after two local armed robberies last week.

Parents want to know why schools did not go into lockdown after two local businesses were robbed at gunpoint and the suspects escaped on foot. The robberies occurred just 48 hours apart.

Comments from school parents emailed to the Loomis News and posted on the paper’s website and on Facebook indicated concern that both Del Oro and Loomis Grammar schools were not placed on lockdown while the suspect was sought.

Parent Rebecca Butterfield emailed, “Why, in light of recent school tragedies, when a suspected armed man was being sought only blocks away, was the school not placed on lockdown? Nor were families advised on the first incident at Star Liquor? And when we were emailed we were told the suspect had been ‘contained immediately.’”

Penryn resident John Swedensky posted a comment on the robbery story  on the Loomis News website. His comment included, “In light of current events it appears to me that there is a need for the Sheriff's office, as well as the school district, to improve communication channels. … I'm not confident our children were actually safe if an armed man was out on the loose. I think parents of this community should be asking for more answers to what happened in the aftermath of this burglary. I know I will be.”

Placer County Sheriff's Office's Lt. Daryll Steinhauer, South Placer substation commander, responded to parent concerns.

In an email to the Loomis News he said, “Based on the information developed by the Sheriff’s Office and the quick response in which our deputies and other resources arrived there was no danger to the surrounding schools or students”

Prior to the robberies, the schools had begun meeting with Loomis Fire Protection District and the Sheriff’s Office leaders to address student safety in emergency situations.

Steinhauer said the entities will continue meeting and will incorporate the robbery incidents into their discussions.

Steinhauer said, “We will continue to work with the school district to address student safety on school grounds as well as those incidents that occur away from the schools”

According to Placer County Sheriff’s Office staff, Loomis Star Liquor on Taylor Road was robbed at 11:30 a.m., last Wednesday, Jan. 16; and the Valero gas station on Penryn Road was robbed at 11:54 a.m., last Friday, Jan. 18. The suspects in both incidents had similar descriptions and escaped on foot.

Michael Simmons, detective with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said based on witness information in the Loomis Star Liquor robbery detectives are seeking a lone, Hispanic male who was wearing a dark hoodie pulled over his head, with a dark shirt and blue jeans. Simmons said the suspect is described as being between the age of 25 and 26 and is approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall.

He said the suspect took two items from the store and an undisclosed amount of cash from the register before fleeing on foot.

Simmons said Sheriff’s Office patrol and detectives responded, along with a Sacramento Police Department helicopter, but the suspect was not apprehended.

In the Valero gas station robbery, Simmons said witnesses described the suspect as a male, about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wearing a black hoodie pulled over his head and blue jeans and carrying a handgun. He said the suspect had some type of scarf covering the lower part of his face.

The suspect stole an undisclosed amount of money in the cash register and left the scene on foot. Officers believed he went into a nearby field and Simmons said a perimeter was set up and Sheriff’s officers and K9s combed the nearby fields. A Sheriff's helicopter searched the area for hours, but no suspect was apprehended.

Del Oro High School, which is less than two miles away by road, sent out an email message to parents that informed them of the incident and said, “The students were never at any risk, however as a precaution, deputies were dispatched to the school for uniformed presence. Del Oro administration was in constant communication with the Sheriff’s department to ensure our students’ safety.”

Del Oro vice principal Bridget Farren said in an email to the Loomis News, “We asked staff to keep students in the classrooms temporarily as we were communicating with the Sheriff's Office once we were made aware of the robbery. We were on heightened alert that we might possibly need to lockdown. We did not go into official lockdown, but made our staff and students aware of the situation.”

Gordon Medd, Loomis Union School District superintendent, the district was in constant communication with the Sheriff’s Office for direction.

Medd said the Sheriff’s Office indicated that they had a suspect “contained” and there was no risk to school students.

Anyone with information on the robberies is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 923-8191.