Ben Dahan News Editor
A man in possession of a loaded firearm was arrested shortly after leaving campus on Wednesday, Feb. 28. The man, identified as Michael Alphonso Barona, 25, entered through an open gate and was seen walking around campus.
At 5 p.m., the Beverly Hills Police Department responded to a call from a woman followed off-campus by Barona in a Green Toyota Camry. BHPD is not disclosing the identity of the caller, other than that she was not a BHHS student.
After stopping the suspect near school grounds, police discovered a loaded, though otherwise lawfully possessed, firearm in the glovebox. An arrest was made for violating the Gun-Free School Zone Act, a felony, and Carrying a Loaded Firearm in a Vehicle While in a Public Place, a misdemeanor. According to state law, a firearm must be stored separately from its ammunition while in a vehicle.
At the time of writing, BHPD has found no connection between Barona and the school, nor any evidence that suggests Barona intended to commit a crime other than those for which he has been arrested.
The arrest comes in the wake of a scare over a possible school-shooting, police activity at the Peninsula hotel, and the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead.
Police presence around campus has been increased in the past two weeks, and will only be further emphasized after this most recent incident. The district is taking measures of its own to ensure security, such as building a perimeter fence around the high school’s traditionally open campus.
“We’ve had the blessing for years of enjoying the open campus feeling of this school,” Principal Mark Mead said. “It is [due to] a sad state of the world that this thing absolutely has to change, but I’m ready to do it.”
According to a statement regarding this incident released to community members by Superintendent Michael Bregy, security has come to the forefront of district official’s attention.
“There is no higher priority than ensuring that each and every one of our students, staff and family members is confident in the safety of our schools,” Bregy said.
Barona was arraigned Friday, March 2, before being transferred to Los Angeles County Jail. Bail was set at $20,000.
The Police Department urges anyone with information on Barona or the incident to come forward by calling the Detective Bureau at 310-285-2185.