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Police nab alleged bank robber after chase through Paly

Original post made on Nov 5, 2019

Palo Alto police arrested a man on Monday who they say robbed a Bank of America on Quarry Road before leading officers on a chase through Palo Alto High School.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 4, 2019, 9:32 PM

Comments (31)

9 people like this
Posted by Scary
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2019 at 8:06 am

I work at Paly. We heard students running and screaming through the quad so we went on lock down in our room because we didn't know what was going on. Pretty scary. Glad they caught the guy!

4 people like this
Posted by member1
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 5, 2019 at 8:18 am

There were no lock down warnings for all students. Some students that were outside already just ran??? I heard from kids that he was able to enter their library. Please check out the facts palo alto online

. It wold be great to get the actual real story. Teachers with windows toward the quad of course locked doors and held kids, many classrooms do not face the areas of action and some do not really have windows. There was no warning and many had no idea and no protection. Shouldn't police have a connection to the school and a preset warning in this day and age? Did he just run through campus and onto a trail or was he on the campus in the library? These two different situations are both upsetting and both expose security risks that need to be addressed.
What really happened? Were there cameras in the library? If there are cameras posted, why weren't all the classrooms on lockdown? I am very disgusted that my kid's class was not notified, they had no idea and absolutely any kid could have taken a bathroom break and been in real danger. Leadership is the biggest part of any safety plan.

I hope Site council can look at the wasted expense of cameras that are installed but not being monitored. I wonder also how any staff could protect a school that is so totally open. The decisions not to put up fencing should be revisited.

5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2019 at 9:06 am

Rather than turn every building in the city into a fortress, I wonder if an alternative is for banks to limit the dispensing of cash to ATM machines that are isolated, away from the banks. Maybe adjacent to police substations. Banks with large amounts of cash could be viewed as "attractive nuisances". Just a thought.

23 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2019 at 9:41 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

The Paly student news feeds have complete stories. You can't depend on those in charge of school safety to provide anyone with accurate information. They're too busy trying to figure out how to massage the message and what facts they should leave out.

The man ran through campus and entered the library and asked the libararian where the bathroom was. She didn't even question it and directed him to the bathrooms outside the library. A student spotted the man and told police where he was. He then evaded police and ran through campus to the back of campus on the trail where he was arrested.

Web Link

Web Link

Some teachers were in lockdown mode. Some teachers were still out to lunch.

It is very disturbing that in the principal's messages none of them seemed to mention that this man was trying to hide on campus and was in a student bathroom.

I bet if he were a streaker there would have been a three page memo sent out about the dangers of streaking and how students could get suspended or arrested for running through campus naked. But, when a bank robber runs through campus the staff directs him to the nearest bathroom so he can hide from the police.

14 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2019 at 10:19 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

A bike for a getaway vehicle? How Palo Alto.

3 people like this
Posted by member 1
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 11:46 am

Finding the memo to parents quite a gaslight!! Perp. in a school building making contact with adults easily quite different story than a perp being caught on a trail behind campus. Every visitor needs a pass. They need gates and fences, but those will not help with leadership that will not follow protocols set by every other CA public school.

When exactly was the principal notified and why did he not sound the alarms he should have for a stranger on campus?

This is quite different to see that anyone, even a bank robber on foot can just enter a school building and remain on campus for quite awhile with police behind. Did he have a visitor pass? Did she really tell him where the bathroom was without one?!!! Really?? Is this common to allow outside adults into school bathrooms? maybe no gates. Kids are safer across the street and this is not meant to be mean, but I think it is safer off that campus.

10 people like this
Posted by member 1
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 11:49 am

Any teacher at the school should be able to send a stranger danger alert to the principal quickly and then the entire school needed to be on lockdown. There was time for that.

29 people like this
Posted by Sally-Ann Rudd
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 5, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Sally-Ann Rudd is a registered user.

If every visitor without a pass on the Paly campus caused a lockdown it would be pretty much constant lockdown. It is an open campus, like every Palo Alto school and every college campus, there are people, adults and students, coming and going all the time. The students are all well versed in what to do in these situations even the ones who happened to be caught outside know they have to run (and fences would have impeded that). The whole thing was over in 5 minutes probably no one had time to react, the principal sent out the first email to parents minutes after it was clear it was all over. This is the world our kids live in now. Neither of my kids felt it was important enough to even mention at dinner until I asked. For my daughter it was the second fake active shooter scare in 2 weeks - she was at Great America when there was a much longer, more worrying incident the last Saturday before Halloween. People need to calm down and not put unreasonable expectations on the people running the schools, they are teachers not professional security consultants although increasingly that's what they are asked to be.

15 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Gennady, how about finding out whether and when PAPD notified the school district? Did the police notify the school that they were engaged in a pursuit on campus, and what they knew about it? Or did they just run onto campus and leave school staff to figure out on their own what was happening? It's hard to lay a lack of communication at Paly's feet if PAPD didn't bother to pick up the phone and tell them what was going on.

Spoiler alert: I bet the answer is no, and that no one in the department, from the dispatcher on up, figured out that they should notify the school to prevent the chaos and confusion that followed their presence. But it would take some actual reporting to find out for sure.

8 people like this
Posted by police accountability
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2019 at 12:26 pm

This is another massive screw up by PAPD dispatch and officers which failed to notify the school to lock down. Instead there were cops with guns running through the quad yelling at kids to run, and chaos and pandemonium.

The report does not even indicate that this thief had a weapon. Were there actual exigent circumstances in which he could be safely apprehended or was a crowd of children terrorized and put in harm's way by the lack of warning to lock down the school?

When is Chief Jonson going to be held accountable for what a horrendous job he is doing? Last time he put an older Palo Alto 911 caller in life threatening danger -- this time it was our kids.

Web Link

PAPD officer turned off her body cam, Jonson has nothing to say about it.

PAPD officers committed a hate crime against a gay man [portion removed.]
Web Link

PAPD Captain and spokesperson uses N-word.Web Link

When will City Council hold the Chief accountable?

22 people like this
Posted by Academy Graduate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2019 at 12:58 pm

@police accountability: Change your career and put on a uniform. It's easy to be a Monday Morning Quarterback. It's tiring to read postings of criticism from people who are too fearful to even attempt to be a police officer. PAPD has caught assailants when there is virtually no evidence, they do a great job. I am always amazed that they catch so many criminals. They are HUMAN BEINGS, they are not invincible, their lives matter too. They are helpful when we need them. Don't call them the next time you need help since you don't respect them.

Learn about law enforcement to understand more. There is a free PAPD Citizens Police Academy two times per year. The next one starts in February, I believe. It's 8 classes, 6:00-9:00, dinner provided. Sit with dispatch for two hours, ride along with an officer, learn about forensics, try your hand at the virtual reality screen, where you are an officer approaching a scene and have to make a split-second decision. I was approaching a scene and a criminal popped up and shot me. Game over.

As for your links, there are bad people in every career. There are bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad nurses, bad teachers, bad professors, bad dentists, bad priests. I am doubt you live a completely angelic life, it's just a matter of degree.

17 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2019 at 1:18 pm

Don't any of you realize that a man running at full speed across a campus might take only a few minutes?

What people don't realize is that the Paly Main Office phone line forwards to voicemail often. This is the real issue! I’ve called throughout the days. Someone should ALWAYS answer the Paly phone. If the receptionist is not there, or is on the phone, it should forward to another receptionist. Perhaps the police dispatch called!

Moreover, is there a speaker system that works properly across campus? My children missed In Focus campus news videos over the years because the TVs were not working.

My child did not know anything was going on, they were in class.

Paly should have students register their mobile phones so they can be sent alerts.

The real issue is that the Facilities Director needs to get to work. Jerry Berkson, calling on you! [email protected]

8 people like this
Posted by member1
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 1:50 pm


You need to realize that the stranger on campus had time to walk into the library, ask the staff where the bathroom was and walk toward the bathroom. That was more than a few minutes. There are many things wrong with this event. Do others just walk on campus to use restrooms? This staff did need a way to notify office. I agree. This office NEVER answers their phones. Who is looking at cameras? Are they just used to look at what happened after the fact? why bother then?

They had time and principal should have sounded alarm. At the very,very least, roll should have been taken and the entire school should have been searched for any possible discarded weapons or other strangers before calling an all clear. Nonsense that this was not done. there is no excuse for not taking these simple measures.

14 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2019 at 1:56 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

The police had time to get a hold of one of the school's golf carts to drive through campus. Pretty sure the administrators at Paly were well aware of what was taking place and chose not to go to an official lockdown as that would look bad.

There's no use calling on Berkson to help change anything. He's just a warm body who only acts when forced.

9 people like this
Posted by Dude
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 5, 2019 at 3:37 pm

From the Paly Voice:
"I was in the art classroom without a teacher, senior Kimberley Martinez". As a teacher with a kid- I would jave your job. AT NO TIME WHATSOEVER ARE THERE TO BE STUDENTS LEFT ALONE IN A CLASSROOM.EVER EVER EVER!

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2019 at 4:28 pm

What surprises me and even concerns me most about this is that there seems to be no protocol in which a scenario like this is covered. Our schools have code red drills, code yellow drills, earthquake drills, fire drills, surely one of those should have covered this.

What if the bank robber had been armed? What if there was an armed felon running across campus being chased by armed police? Isn't this a code yellow (shelter in place situation)?

Our schools rehearse these practice drills every year. Perhaps they only know how to do a scheduled practice and when it comes to real life they just don't have the procedures in place. If this had been a true shooter on campus would the school admin have fared any better?

Our schools must look at this and see what went wrong. Obviously something did go wrong. Fortunately nothing untoward ending up happening. I wonder just what we would all be writing here on Town Square if indeed this had been for real.

26 people like this
Posted by Paly staff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 5, 2019 at 10:51 pm

It is sad and demoralizing, that an incident successfully handled by police in minutes is being used by some members of this community predictably to bash our administration, teachers, staff, and PAPD. Some people expect perfect instant communication and 2,300 people, mostly kids, to pull of a perfect synchronized emergency response; and some want any excuse to grind some axes because they just don't like us. Blame the principal, or better yet, how about a past principal? Or McGee or Skelly? PAEA? And some commenters are insulting responding police officers or staff members even if not by name, without knowing facts.
•Where were golf carts located when this started and who was using them? Kind of important and probably messes up the theory someone offered earlier.
•How long -does- it take to walk into the library from the edge of campus? Or maybe did he jog a little? And...which entry point was used?
•How do you know what else the librarian did or didn't do? (it was more than reported)
•How many variations of scenarios -should- we practice for? How often? Is that healthy?
•It would look bad to go into a lockdown if there were danger to our students? How? To whom?

8 people like this
Posted by reality check
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 5, 2019 at 11:26 pm

Thank you paly staff, agreed. Resident said obviously something went wrong- only thing I see is you realize the campus is open! Someone can walk on to it!??OMG how could this be? "I wonder what we would be writing here if this were for real"????? What? The guy in jail was fake?

To be shocked that someone could possibly walk into a non-gated, rather large open campus, during lunchtime with people coming and going, shows how naive people are. Then to insinuate policies were violated, mistakes were made, staff is horrible, police stink etc is downright irresponsible and inflammatory.

13 people like this
Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 5, 2019 at 11:45 pm

One big issue for me is that NONE of the communications from PAUSD have acknowledged the fact that this man made his way through campus, into the library and then into the bathroom. How about just telling us the whole story?

The Superintendent says that students started running because they "saw the commotion." He doesn't mention that campus security was running around yelling at students to run off campus. He fails to mention that teachers didn't know what to do, that some students who wanted to shelter in a classroom could not because doors were still locked, and other students were in a classroom without a teacher.

Why is the most detailed version of events being written by the students in the student paper?

Why is the Superintendent trying to downplay the situation by saying things like "Practically speaking, students are dispersed around campus, across the street at restaurants, and off-site in cars." The man was apprehended at 12:16. Lunch ends at 12:05 and classes start at 12:15. So, between 12:05 and 12:15 would be the exact time that students would be walking back from lunch, through campus to class.

As the saying goes, "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2019 at 6:58 am

Unless there is more to this than the Weekly is reporting, it is evident to me that something did go wrong.

I have no idea if this guy was armed but at least he appeared to have no intention of shooting anyone at school. But, and this is the big but, who made the decision or was a decision made to not put the school on lockdown. Yes he was for real, but it appears that there was no potential shooter on campus for real.

I think the following questions should be asked.

What constitutes the need for a shelter in place and does police chasing a potential armed thief fall into that category?

How is the alert carried out so that all students whether in classrooms or anywhere else know? Is the alert issued on students' phones, by bells, by computer to teachers, etc.?

How does PAPD alert the school of police activity on campus? Do they have a direct line to principal/Superintendent/anyone in authority to call a lockdown?

Were mistakes made or lessons learned from this?

The parents may have been emailed, but as a community and particularly those who will be parents of Paly students in the future we should know much more than we have been told. Is it the duty of a local newspaper to inform the community or should the Superintendent make an announcement to all of us in the community as to the details of how this was dealt with.

I am not trying to lay blame, but I am asking for information. If things went according to plan then I am pleased, but as a completely neutral member of the community I feel that these things should be public knowledge. If things were missteps, then are these being examined?

I think these are fair questions to be asked.

16 people like this
Posted by Tired staff
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2019 at 7:45 am

We ask our students to T-H-I-N-K if they're posting things online that are true, helpful, informative, necessary, kind. How about adults do that too? So much is off base in some way with many assumptions about how quickly everyone can react to a situation like this, when you're in the middle of work and suddenly given urgent extremely limited info, and then add multiple sources with partial updates and some of them coming in out of order and some mistaken. Students were spreading completely wrong information by texts, talking about guns and knives within the first minute to 90 seconds.. I ask some of you to think twice before posting. And If you really think you have something important that needs to be said I hope you're willing to share your great insights directly with the school. Don't put good advice here because our school will study and learn from this event by talking to staff and police, but not from combing through anonymous posts. some of this is practically libel.
Kudos to PAPD for taking on the danger and making the arrest. Kudos to the student who called 911. Thank you to all staff members who kept calm, supported our students and reacted in effective ways to handle a challenging situation by doing your best in a strange stressful event. They know how we took care of them and they're the ones that matter most.

7 people like this
Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 8:22 am

@Tired Staff - Please clarify the items that are off base. As someone who was there, feel free to give your account of the situation as it unfolded.

I'm sure things moved quickly. As you said, students were spreading information within a minute. So, they all knew that a person was being chased by police and could potentially be dangerous. Why didn't Paly leadership understand the potential? Ernesto, the campus supervisor was running around telling students to take cover. Why wasn't an alarm sounded? The police gained access to a campus golf cart. This meant that they came in contact with a campus supervisor and told them they needed the cart.

Things happen quickly in these situations. Let's assume the worst, and this guy had a gun and started shooting and people were injured. Are we to be placated by hearing that Paly administration was just waiting to hear the full extent of what was happening before they deemed it an emergency?

At what point does this elevate to the level of emergency to the staff that they are compelled to alert the students and sound the alarm? Having police conducting a pursuit of a suspect on campus should at least tick several of those boxes.

What was the administration doing during this time? Were they too busy having lunch?

12 people like this
Posted by reality check
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2019 at 9:57 am

Maybe the whole story, about a guy wandering through campus all the way to the library, is simply that? Why jump to the conclusion things went wrong, especially when you then ask for more details in the next sentence. The link in the article from the PAPD Johnson explains more detail, police on scene within 2 minutes, guy caught within 5. Article says note passed at the bank, no weapons during the crime or found later. Emails to parents within 10 minutes.

If you read about police response times or follow tragic incidents, this response time sounds well above average. No system is perfect, including lockdown drills, all it takes is lunchtime and an open campus to throw a wrench in the procedure it seems. SInce the cops were on scene so fast I'd guess catching the guy quickly was the focus. 2 minutes on scene and caught within 5, well done in my book.

9 people like this
Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 10:34 am

I don't see much to fault in terms of PAPD. They seem to have done a great job. It does sound like, however, that somewhere the communication between PAPD, Paly and the students was lacking during the 10+ minutes. In follow up communications, neither PAUSD nor PAPD give the full story there. If Paly knew police were chasing a suspect, why not sound the lockdown alarm? Are they waiting to hear gunfire? What is the protocol? That is not made clear. The teachers also did not seem to know what was going on, either as some locked down their rooms, others did not. There is a campus wide speaker system to be used in just these instances. Why wasn't it used?

If anyone tells me that they feel safer should there be a real emergency, given the response of the administration at Paly during this event then you have been drinking the PAUSD Kool-Aid for far too long.

5 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 6, 2019 at 11:59 am


I would like to know exactly how and when the principal was notified. His office has windows and did he just sit inside while kids were running scared? They do not know if the bank robbler was armed at one time or if he tossed it. The second a police officer borrowed a golf cart to find the person of interest, the staff needed to sound the alarm.Teachers seeing this and locking down needed to request that the entire school is on lockdown.

If you call the principal desk, they will not answer phone. This is a safety issue because parents or other peripheral people may contact the school or even students or teachers.

Fun fact. This is a CA public school and they already have protocols set up clearly with support. Ca dept of education needs to step in and enforce proper facilities management, leadership and drills that need to be done properly.

For this instance, there should have been a lockdown. Every teacher should have been notified and the school should have been searched at least after the event. Many staff and kids were not told and had no idea what was going on or what went on. I am sure there will be a poll or some money thrown at the problem. You could hire secret service staff to get safety plan together, but without leadership that can follow a plan and enforce it, there is nothing but risk.

Time yourself and see if there was enough time. Hi mr principal, there are police with guns trying to find a bank robber, he is on the campus somewhere, we don't know where.... sound the lockdown alarm. Ok.. 5 seconds.

Hope they spend as much time looking at epic breach as they do smoothing it out

3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous 1
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 6, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Tired Parent,

THINK in all caps and assuming all posts are from parents is tiring and just shows a type of ignorance and lack of support for the community . IT is true no lock down alarm was pulled. They were in the campus, in a building and then another building, police asked to get cart so clearly security could see there was a problem. They have radios so tech was not the issue, THe lock down alarm needed to be pushed. You are wrong. Protecting the mentallity that doing nothing is excusable and being complicit in this failiure prevents fixing this huge hole in security at a large High School. Teachers need to not be “tired” of information they could take and use and evaluate. Seeing your slant is tiresome. Filtering what you believe with such a tightly woven thread is tiresome. Other schools have teachers who go out of their way to collect information for the community they serve. You seem to be mad when it is handed to you. Sometimes you do not have time to THINK, you just need to have practices drills correctly and have things in place because seconds count in emergencies.

8 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Paly is a school. This is key. There was a bank robbery relatively nearby and the robber (presumably have description, on video), rode off in the direction of a school: Paly. This deserved notification ASAP to school administration by Palo Alto police. Even though, certainly, he could have gone to Town & Country or down Embarcadero, etc., I still think immediate notification of a serious federal crime nearby (and loose suspect) warranted immediate notification to Paly.
What Paly administration then does in addition to informing key administrators and security, I’m not sure since it is a large geographic area, and Paly is an open campus (a style which I disapprove of), but this doesn’t mean we should exist in ignorance or unawareness (of risks like this, when they happen).
Turns out this guy was a confirmed criminal, too. Don’t make light of this incident, let’s learn from it.

8 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 6, 2019 at 6:28 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.

Given what I've heard from teachers and students at Paly, all knew what to do when they heard PAPD officers and campus supervisors shouting to run/get into a classrom. Morevoer, teachers and students saw classmates running. Translation: get to a safe place.

God bless those staffers who pulled lunchtime kids into their classroom and offices.

Training works.

If folks on this thread have a problem with such training, I might suggest that our community think through WHY our childern and their teachers have undergone YEARS of active shooter scenarios.

A couple of questions come to mind:

1. How do we, in a democratic society, balance open access and security? Maybe the NRA has a solution (?)
2. How many on this thread are responsible for the lives of young people EACH AND EVERY DAY? Maybe you-all have a suggestion (?)

Suggestions will not doubt be welcome at the next BOE meeting at 25 Churchill.

With respect,


5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous 1
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 7, 2019 at 2:24 am

Grace Brown,

This is not true. Training was not followed. The alarm for lock down was not sent. Every class did not have visibility toward the incident. Some classrooms do not have windows. This mistake left too many open for possible risk. I an not sure how yo can say kids running away from an incident was because of any tralning. If they had years of training and this is the result, then that is just scary . A principal failing to push alarm with so many pretty big clues is scary to me. It is almost comical to see how many he missed. Why did he decide to go against trainings? Film of the event with a timeline and record of communitcations is the only data they they should be looking at. Listening to accounts from staff or students will not be as accurate.I am sure this will never be released because it will expose the decision making and flaws they do not seem to want to fix. Sorry Grace, this was not handled well. Teachers who depend on leadership to help them do their jobs and follow training were let down .

2 people like this
Posted by Fr0hickey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2019 at 5:43 am

PAPD and Principal did OK
In situations like this, you cannot expect a quick lock down to be performed. The idea of having ATMs near police presence is crazy. How many police stations are there versus ATMs? We can cannot lock down the school prior to prevent intruders from coming in, but that would be putting alarms at all entrances/exits.

7 people like this
Posted by Insider
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 7, 2019 at 9:29 pm

No alarm was sounded. Kids and staff had different experiences depending on where they were at the time of the incident. This was handled horribly during and after the event by the administration. Students and staff feel the leadership is lacking. We teachers responded by making sure our students were safe even though we did not know what was going on.

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