One week after the tragic police shooting of a student armed with a BB gun in the parking lot of Torrey Pines High School (TPHS), the school district’s superintendent is once again reminding families that there is help available.
San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUSD) Eric Dill sent an email to parents Saturday – a week to the day of the deadly May 6 shooting of a 15-year-old TPHS student – with information about suicide prevention and helping teenagers cope with the struggles of adolescence.
The teenager shot and killed by San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers left behind a suicide note, police confirmed earlier this week.
“It was his plan to end his life,” Dill’s email to TPHS families read.
“While many look back at their middle and high school years as some of the best in their lives, we know this time can be emotionally difficult for many students,” Dills email stated. “Suicide is a complex matter and there is never just one reason behind a person's decision. In most circumstances, we can never truly know what led to the act, so rather than focusing on why a suicide occurred, it's important to reinforce the message that suicide is not a viable solution to one's problems and that help is available.”
Dill told families that, no matter the reasons why a student might be struggling, TPHS has specialized staff and peer support that can help anyone who needs assistance.
He also said parents and educators can get more information on suicide prevention via the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) resource page.
Dill also offered a link to The Dougy Center’s website about how to talk with children about tragic events.
“Should anyone need immediate assistance, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text "START" to 741741,” his email added.
The superintendent also encouraged students and staff to talk about their feelings with their loved ones.
Dill’s email also mentioned the new Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” – currently popular among teenagers. The show is about a teenage girl who dies by suicide; she tells the story of her death through audiotapes.
“We want you to be well-informed about the content and potential impact of this show, especially because teens today often watch media by themselves on personal devices,” Dill said. “The National Association of School Psychologists strongly recommends that youth who are vulnerable, especially those who have experienced suicidal ideation, not watch the series.”
Dill said “13 Reasons Why,” does, however, “present an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your child.” The superintendent also offered a link on how to talk to teenagers about the show.
Dill said school counselors will continue to be available to help as things get back to normal on the TPHS campus.
As far as the student’s family goes, Dill said the principal of TPHS has been in contact with the boy’s mother.
She is grateful to our community and to the school for their concern and allowing her family to mourn privately. We will continue to honor her wishes,” he wrote.
On May 6, just before 3:30 a.m., the teenager at the center of this case, called 911 asking for police officers to conduct a welfare check on a minor near TPHS. The minor he was referring to was himself, only he talked in the third person when making that 911 call, SDPD Acting Homicide Lt. Mike Holden said.
"[In] our preliminary investigation, we believe that the subject that was shot is the person who actually called to check the welfare [of the minor]. We believe that he actually called and spoke about himself in the third person," Holden explained. "It was a very general 'check the welfare' call."
"It was a phone call that 'there's a male juvenile in front of the school, it appears someone should check on him,'" Holden added.
The SDPD said the caller stated that the juvenile had no weapons.
Two officers arrived at the parking lot at the front entrance of the school. There, they spotted the teenager standing in the lot.
Holden said that as the officers got out of their patrol car, the teenager pulled a gun out of his waistband "and pointed it directly at one of the officers."
Both officers drew their service weapons while repeatedly ordering the teenager to drop his weapon. Holden said the teen refused to drop the weapon and, instead, "continued to point the handgun at the one officer and then began walking towards the same officer."
Again, the officers told the teen to drop his weapon.
Holden said the officers feared for their safety and fired their guns at the teen, striking him "a number of times."
The teen was critically wounded and taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla where he died a short time later. The officers, a 28-year veteran and 4-year veteran of the police department, were not hurt.
Investigators have now determined that the weapon held by the teen was a semi-automatic BB air pistol.
The teenager killed by police lived in the neighborhood. Since he's a minor, police will not be releasing his name.
Holden said the officers involved in the teenager's shooting were wearing department-issued body-worn cameras, so footage of the shooting exists. Those videos were impounded as evidence in the investigation.
On May 5, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis held a news conference to release videos of three prior shootings in San Diego involving local police officers and deputies.
The DA’s office is responsible for determining whether a crime was committed in officer or deputy-involved shootings in San Diego County. Video from an officer's body camera may be part of the investigation.
Dumanis said the DA's office was releasing the videos Friday in those prior incidents per the protocol reached with law enforcement agencies. She has held similar news conferences in the past to reveal new details about other law enforcement-involved shootings in San Diego.
It is unclear, at this point, if and when the body camera video of the shooting of this teenager at TPHS will be released.