School safety officer fires on car near Millikan High; one person critically wounded

A school safety officer critically wounded a woman when he shot at a car that was pulling past him in a parking lot near Millikan High School on Monday afternoon, according to bystander video and information from authorities.

Videos posted online show the school safety officer walking up to a gray sedan that was stopped in the driveway of a shopping center about a block north of the campus. The officer is by the car’s passenger-side front window when it lurches forward and closer to him at the same time, tires squealing, video shows.

Witnesses said someone in the car was wounded when the officer fired at the moving vehicle, but authorities haven’t confirmed who was shot other than to say she is a woman. No students were wounded, according to school officials.

Witnesses say the incident began with a fight a few minutes after 3 p.m. near Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue.

That’s when a girl and a young man got out of the gray sedan, which was stopped in the strip mall parking lot, according to Aidan Altobello, a Millikan junior whose parents consented to him being quoted. The girl from the car confronted a Millikan student who was walking from school, and a fight began, he said.

The fight spilled from the sidewalk into the street but broke up after people started honking at the group and the school safety officer intervened, according to another Millikan parent, who asked not to be named. At least two of the people involved in the fight then returned to the silver sedan.

“The officer goes up to the car to stop them, and they start to pull off, and he pulls out his gun,” said Aidan, who also filmed the incident.

Long Beach Unified School District officials said the safety officer had been off campus to provide safe passage for students before the fight began. When he became aware of the altercation in the street, he approached to investigate, “and during the course of that investigation, the school safety officer discharged their duty weapon and an individual was struck by gunfire,” the LBUSD said in a statement.

School safety officers are armed officers who are employed by the Long Beach Unified School District. They are not full-fledged peace officers like those employed by police departments, but they do carry guns and work closely with the Long Beach Police Department.

Long Beach police at the scene along Spring Street, between Palo Verde and Snowden avenues, near the area where a shooting occurred. Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Officials couldn’t immediately say whether it was within school safety officers’ authority to investigate crimes or detain people off campus.

“That’s gonna come with the investigation,” said Justin Grayson, the LBUSD’s chief communications officer. “I cannot confirm that at the moment, but they do patrol the area around schools.”

After school, Millikan students often congregate or walk through the area near Spring and Palo Verde, and on Monday, the gunfire sent kids, “running left and right,” said Bob Bilderback, who owns a business in the shopping center on Spring Street and Palo Verde Avenue.

The school district deferred any further questions to the Long Beach Police Department, which it said was “leading the investigation into the facts surrounding the incident.”

Long Beach police confirmed they were assisting in an investigation into an officer-involved shooting and that their officers had not fired the shots. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is also investigating, said LBPD spokesman Brandon Fahey, as is routine with shootings involving law enforcement.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more information from police, the school district, witnesses and bystander video. It was also updated to show that Aidan Altobello said he saw a girl and a young man get out of the car—not a young woman.

Long Beach Police Department officers question people at the corner of Palo Verde Avenue and Spring Street near Millikan High School where a shooting occurred on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Long Beach Police Department officers and school safety officers at the corner of Palo Verde Ave and Spring Street, near Millikan High School, where a shooting occurred on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Photo by Stephen Carr.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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