A delivery truck driver accused of threatening kids during a campus-sponsored movie night at McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach was arrested at the event on Friday, Oct. 7.
The PTA was hosting the outdoor movie screening on the school’s giant field. More than 100 parents and children were present when the incident happened around 7:45 p.m., according to a press release from the Seal Beach Police Department.
Police say children were playing on the playground when the male suspect, 33-year-old Robert Fausett of San Pedro, was driving by the campus on Marlin Avenue. The man allegedly got out of the truck and “began yelling at the children through a chain-link fence.” Fausett accused the kids of throwing candy at his truck and at some point hopped over the fence and threatened the children, police reported.
Officers detained Fausett as he was driving away and he was later arrested on charges of making criminal threats and causing a disturbance on school grounds. He was booked and later released on bail.
The children involved were between the ages of nine and 14, according to SBPD Lt. Nick Nicholas. According to a few parents interviewed for this story, the kids were frightened by the man and ran and told adults. Somehow word started spreading that someone may have been shot or was threatening to shoot or kill people causing alarm among a group of some parents. No one was injured and no weapons were found in the truck or on the suspect, according to police.
In an interview on Oct. 11, McGaugh Assistant Principal Richard Larson said he was on campus during movie night when he got a call from an upset parent who was also on campus saying a man was “threatening to kill kids.” Larson said he immediately dialed 911 and quickly ran to the field area where the movie event was happening.
“When I ran out there I did not see any panic,” Larson said, explaining his first instinct was to immediately calm the community. “What I saw were people watching the movie.”
Larson said police arrived as he got outside. Lt. Nicholas said officers were on scene within 60 seconds of the first 911 call.
McGaugh Principal Wendy Wood had briefly left movie night to get dinner on Main Street but immediately returned following word of the incident. She arrived minutes after police arrived.
“The message that I heard was that the majority of parents thought it was an isolated incident with the truck,” and not related to McGaugh, Wood said in an interview on Oct. 11. “It was not pandemonium. It was not chaos,” she added, saying it all happened very quickly but understood how it could be scary for parents and kids.
“I think for the parents that heard that, it was very upsetting because we just don’t know nowadays,” Wood said but stressed that she felt the police response reinforced the department’s commitment to protecting the only public school in Seal Beach.
“We are #1 for them and it clearly showed,” Wood said. Larson echoed Wood saying that when he connected with the police “he knew instantly that we were in good hands and we were going to be safe.”
School officials and the police department are stressing that there is no ongoing danger to the campus. “We believe this to be an isolated incident,” Seal Beach Chief of Police Philip Gonshak said in the press release. “The students did the right thing by immediately notifying adults, and the adults should be commended for quickly calling 9-1-1. While we understand how frightening this incident was for the children and parents on campus, please know that the safety and security of the McGaugh community is one of our highest priorities as your Police Department.”
McGaugh administrators and the police department are in regular communication and officers are often on campus. Lt. Nicholas said he is talking with the PTA and school leaders to host another upcoming parent education workshop on school safety.