ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – There was another scare at Española Valley High School Thursday. Sheriff’s deputies said a former student was found on campus with a loaded gun and a knife.
KRQE News 13 learned that former student has a history of violence.
Officers confirmed 18-year-old Sonny Romero was formerly a student at Española Valley High involved in a highly publicized fight with a teacher years ago. When he returned to school Thursday, deputies said he had a loaded gun.
When asked if he had anything to say, Romero told KRQE News 13, “No I don’t. I wasn’t even on campus,” he chuckled, as he was led to a patrol car in cuffs.
For Española Valley High School staff, students, and law enforcement, what happened Thursday was no laughing matter.
“I was worried about people that were in the cafeteria and people that were in the rest of the school that something could happen,” Dominic Medina, a junior at Española Valley High, told KRQE News 13.
Students were placed on lockdown for the second time this week.
Two days ago, the school was placed on lockdown for what turned out to be a bogus threat on social media, according to investigators.
Thursday afternoon, a security officer spotted Romero in the school gym and recognized him as a former student.
After security tried to question him, Romero left campus, then returned 40 minutes later. That’s when school security called a Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s deputy to the scene.
“He noticed that the subject was fidgeting and trying to put something in his front waist band, he stopped the subject, checked him for weapons and located a loaded 9mm glock handgun,” recalled Sheriff James Lujan, of the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said Romero also had a knife in his pocket. He was arrested for two counts of carrying a deadly weapon on school premises, and carrying a concealed weapon under the age of 19.
“Whether there was intent to go in and do a school shooting, or it just so happened he had a handgun, just so happened to have a handgun doesn’t cut it for an excuse,” said Sheriff Lujan.
“We’re grateful that everything went well and the kids are safe,” said Lujan. “Our ultimate priority in this whole situation was to make sure that the children were safe, and the faculty at the school are safe.”
Officers confirmed Romero is the same teen who swung a ten-foot pipe at an Española Valley High teacher in 2011.
The fight was caught on cell phone video. It shows the teacher spraying Romero with a garden hose, after police said Romero interrupted a class outside, mouthed off to the teacher, and refused to leave.
At one point, the teacher grabbed the pipe as Romero swung at him. The teacher then punched Romero in the face.
Romero then threw a rock at the teacher, and walked away.
“It does raise a red flag for us, you know because of the potential behavior, maybe angry with staff,” said Chief Richard Gallegos, of the Española Police Department.
The teen didn’t say why he was at the school Thursday, or explain why he had a gun.
“As a school official, we have to remain calm, but it’s always a frightening situation because you never want to think about the ‘what if,’ and the aftermath of that,” explained Bobbie Gutierrez, Interim Superintendent for Española Public Schools.
Deputies said Romero was invited to the school by a 15-year-old female student there. School officials said that student is now suspended.
According to Gutierrez, school officials don’t believe the 15-year-old knew Romero had a gun.
Romero is a self-proclaimed gang member, according to deputies.
Investigators said the social media threat from earlier in the week was not related to Thursday’s incident.
Española Valley High will have classes as usual on Friday. Española Police will assign a school resource officer to the high school.
The school principal had already scheduled an open door meeting for parents Friday morning at 8 a.m. Parents are welcome to attend and speak to staff directly.
The school district did pay Romero’s family $60,000 for that altercation with the teacher in 2011.
The teacher involved in that altercation was arrested, but charges were later dropped and the teacher went back to work.