Local News

Jan 7, 2010 11:40 PM by Ariel Wesler

Police say man with unloaded rifle near school did nothing wrong

Lompoc police are saying the man found with an unloaded rifle near Fillmore Elementary School Wednesday afternoon did nothing wrong.

Officers say the 50-year-old man suffers from dementia and has wandered off in the past. He is enrolled in the project lifesaver program through the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. That program acts as a search and rescue for those enrolled. Fillmore held a lockdown drill this morning.

Although he has dementia, police say he was within his constitutional rights because he did not point the rifle at anyone. Officers say the man had no criminal intent. He simply wandered off.

He may have done nothing wrong, but that didn't ease concerns of parents at the school. "Three of my sons go here, and that's scary, to think that someone would walk by with a rifle whether it's loaded or not, your children don't know that," said Dana Wheeler of Lompoc.

The incident happened Wednesday just before 12:30 p.m. It was a minimum day at the school. "I went out on the playground and there were only a few kids there. I got them inside very quickly," said Fillmore Principal Ragan Fife.

School officials say they have no control over what goes on in the surrounding neighborhoods, but they're working to improve what they can control. These emergency management guides were given to teachers at the start of the school year. Wednesday's incident prompted staff to take precautions.

"We called a lockdown when they were at recess and I was amazed. . .in less than two minutes, the playground was completely cleared," Fife said.

The 50-year old man suffers from dementia. He's one of 35 people tracked by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department as part of Project Lifesaver

"It's not something where we take over their caregiving duties and we make sure that they stay out of trouble. Our goal is to find them once they walk away," said Lt. Jeff Klapakis with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

Officers say the man's wife apparently allowed him to bring rifles back home. Lompoc police have confiscated the weapons.

Lompoc police say they can only keep the weapons for five to seven days before returning them to a family member.

The man's name has not been released.

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