“LOCKDOWN” AT LOS CERRITOS SCHOOL: NOT TELLING IT LIKE IT ISBy Greggory Moore
People say believe half of what you see, son
And none of what you hear
I can’t help bein’ confused
—- Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
From Random Lengths News: Jerlene Tatum was already nervous enough about her two children embarking upon their first public-school experience. But her emotional edginess jumped to a whole new level sometime after 11 a.m. on September 12, when a story alert that popped up on the Long Beach Press-Telegram Website: Los Cerritos Elementary School was on lockdown.
Tatum clicked the link and read the brief news item, which quoted Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials as saying a perimeter around the Long Beach school had been set up shortly after 9 a.m. when a deputy in the area of Bixby Rd. and Country Club Dr. noticed a man who appeared to be armed and who ran away when the deputy approached him.
“When I first saw [the story], I panicked,” Tatum says. “And then my first thought was, ‘Why wasn’t I notified [by the school]?’ Then I looked at [the story] again, and I said, ‘Something’s not right.’”
When she called Los Cerritos Elementary, her instinct was proven correct. According to school officials, while it was true they received telephoned instructions from the Sheriff’s Department to go into lockdown mode at approximately 9:20 a.m., the location where a deputy had spotted a man who may have been armed was near the Los Cerritos Elementary School in Paramount, not in Long Beach. The Long Beach school was notified of the mistake 11 minutes later.
Such confusion may be partly understandable. But what’s a little harder to get a handle on is how the Press-Telegram posted such specific inaccuracies—inaccuracies that lent the report a chilling veracity for Tatum, who zeroed in on these problems in an e-mail she sent to Ron Hasse, publisher and president of Los Angeles News Group, which owns the P-T.
“[W]hat is most puzzling is the following statement [from the story]: ‘Shortly after 9 a.m., a deputy was in the area of Bixby Road and Country Club Drive when she noticed a man who appeared to be armed, officials said,’” Tatum wrote. “So, [was] this completely made up? Not only am I disturbed as a parent who has children at Los Cerritos. I am disappointed as a resident of Long Beach that reads the Press Telegram daily.”
According to Beatriz Jiminez, the P-T staff writer who reported the story, this misinformation came from the Sheriff’s Department—specifically, from Sgt. Daniel Gillespie, a Sheriff’s deputy at the Lakewood station whom she quotes by name in the article.
“[Gillespie] did say the deputy spotted a man who appeared to be armed,” Jiminez told Random Lengths News. “When I asked him about the location of the school, I was the one who asked if it was near Bixby and Country Club[,] and he said yes. He went on to say a deputy was in that area.”
But according to Gillespie, this is simply not the case.
“Absolutely not,” Gillespie said when asked whether he provided the misinformation in the P-T article. “That was made up.”