Shots Fired – SWAT Teams – Helicopters Landing – Police Dogs – Armored Vehicles – School Lockdowns – Road Closures TV News – Overtime – and One Boy Burglar

April 10, 2014

Tustin, California –

Shots were fired when a police officer confronted a man reportedly seen walking with a sawed-off shotgun near an apartment complex Thursday morning, officials said, prompting a “soft lockdown” of 10 nearby schools for more than four hours.

The man fled from officers after the shooting, officials said, sparking a search through several nearby apartment buildings. He was taken into custody before 2 p.m., uninjured, said Sgt. Andrew Birozy of the Tustin Police Department. The school lockdown was lifted after the man was taken into custody.

He was identified as Henry Justin Herrera, a 20-year-old Tustin resident. He was taken into custody after a resident reported seeing him in the area, Police Chief Charles Celano said. Officers responded and ordered Herrera to get on the ground.

No weapon has been recovered, Celano said.

The shooting was reported near Nisson Road and Red Hill Avenue, a busy area surrounded by shops, homes and apartment buildings. It was not clear who fired, and police did not immediately disclose other details of the shooting.

“This is a very populated area,” said Celano said. “We have businesses and children walking around.”

No officers were hurt, Birozy said.

Herrera was taken into custody on suspicion of brandishing a weapon. According to court records, he was arrested earlier this year on burglary charges, pleaded guilty to the charges in February and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

The shooting occurred about 9 a.m., after witnesses reported seeing an armed man in the area, Birozy said. Officers saw the man running toward an area of two-story apartment buildings in the 1600 block of Nisson Road.

Tustin officers set up a perimeter and shut down Red Hill from Nisson to Mitchell Avenue as they searched for the man, Birozy said. By noon, Red Hill was open to traffic. Nisson Road remained shut down from Red Hill to Browning Avenue until 2 p.m.

Police searched multiple apartment buildings in the 1600 block of Nisson Road.

Harry Flores, a resident in the apartment buildings where police were searching, said he heard several pops Thursday morning but did not think they were gunshots. He left to run errands and returned to find heavily armed officers canvassing his neighborhood and helicopters overhead.

His wife and son were still in the building, he said. They told him they could hear officers yelling in the area, asking someone to surrender to officers.

Neighboring law-enforcement agencies were called to assist in the search, Birozy said, including Irvine police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Seven schools in the Tustin Unified School School District were placed on a “soft lockdown” as a precaution, said Mark Eliot, spokesman for the district. Students were asked to remain in classrooms, and outdoor activity was being limited.

After the soft lockdown was lifted, kids were released as normal after school. Sports activities continued as planned. The district sent out a phone and email message to parents letting them know what happened and that it was all clear. The schools locked down in the Tustin district were Lambert Elementary, Tustin High, Beswick Elementary, Veeh Elementary, Nelson Elementary, Utt Middle School and Currie Middle School.

St. Cecilia Catholic school and Calvary Christian School, both of which have preschool through eighth grade, were also locked down, officials with the schools said. Edgewood PrePrimary Academy, which has preprimary to kindergarten students, was also on lockdown, a school officials said.

Red Hill Lutheran School, kindergarten through eight grade, was not on lockdown, but outside activities were stopped as a precaution.

“There was never any threat to the schools, but some schools in the immediate area were put on soft lockdown,” Eliot said. “We’re thankful our school staff as well as police department for handling the situation safely and effectively.”

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Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pointed to Ferguson, denouncing what Holder referred to this week as “unnecessarily extreme displays of force” by police.

The image of Ferguson, Mo., police officers in camouflage pointing high-caliber rifles from armored vehicles at unarmed protesters has crystallized a debate over whether a decades-long flow of military-grade equipment to the nation’s police departments has gone too far.

On both left and right, political figures as varied as Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pointed to Ferguson, denouncing what Holder referred to this week as “unnecessarily extreme displays of force” by police.

That debate fits into a larger pattern: A huge upsurge of mayhem in the 1970s and 1980s led to tough-on-crime measures across the country. Now, after two decades of improvements in most places, policies such as long, mandatory prison sentences and expansions of police surveillance are being questioned.

The use of military-style equipment by even small-town police departments is the latest tactic to come under scrutiny.