UPDATE: Investigators determined the boy's death to be a suicide, it was announced Tuesday. The updated story is posted here.
UPDATE 8:45 p.m., March 1
Students and faculty expressed shock and horror Friday after a La Cañada High School student fell to his death from a third-story campus walkway just over an hour after school let out.
Police and school administration officials speaking at a press conference would not disclose if the male student was believed to have committed suicide or fallen by accident, but said foul play is not suspected.
It was a sunny afternoon and the school was buzzing with multiple extracurricular activities when the campus was suddenly swarmed with fire and police personnel around 4 p.m.
“I was walking out and I saw all these sirens and all these medical vehicles and the police showed up,” said Ricky Lengua, a sophomore. “I asked a bunch of people, ‘What’s happening?’ They told me some kid jumped off a building, but I didn’t believe them. At that point it was just rumor. So I walked back there and there was a body they were covering with a tarp.”
The student fell or jumped off an open walkway from the 700 building, a three-story structure which houses seventh- and eighth-grade students. La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the death occurred around 3:55 p.m. and that school had been let out at 2:41.
“This is a community that is very supportive of each other. It’s a community that’s grounded in family values. We consider all of our students part of our family and we will outreach to one another,” said Sinnette at a press conference as she fought back tears. “We will provide professional support and we will also provide the social and emotional support and just community support that’s necessary for us to begin the healing process from what is a completely saddening and horribly devastating event.”
Sinnette released little information on the death and chose not to identify the student's name, sex or age, but multiple students and faculty on campus told Patch it was a boy high school student who died.
See highlights of the press conference here: VIDEO: La Cañada High School Suffers 'A Completely Saddening and Horribly Devastating Event'
Less than an hour after the death, some students were huddled in front of the school comforting each other, while on other parts of the campus after-school activities went on. A girls softball game was played within sight of the area police had blocked off with tape and where multiple police vehicles were parked with their flashers on.
Sinnette declined to provide details of the death or to confirm if sports activities continued on campus, despite reporters pointing out that students in uniform were playing baseball and softball games more than an hour after the death was reported.
“We want to support the family and we think discretion is the least we can do at this point,” Sinnette said.
Sgt. Scott Hoglund of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also declined to state the name, age or sex of the student.
"Just based on respect for the family and the school, the school district doing their part and letting their students know, and how they want to handle it with grievance counselors, that sort of thing," Hoglund said when asked why so few details were being released.
Deborah Scott, whose children graduated from La Cañada High and who said she is a friend of the deceased boy’s mother, spoke to reporters after the press conference.
“It’s a beautiful family," Scott said. "I only know the mother, and she’s a beautiful woman. She works very hard. She’s a single parent and she’s got four beautiful children. I believe he was the oldest.”
The boy's death comes just over a year after a similiar incident at nearby Crescenta Valley High School, where a 15-year-old boy jumped to his death on campus from the roof of a third-story building after leaving four suicide notes.
All La Cañada High School campus activities have been cancelled for the weekend, but classes will resume on Monday, Sinnette said.
She said crisis counselors are available to any student or family that needs it and to check the school’s website for more information.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified from where the student jumped or fell to his death. It was the third story of the 7/8 (middle school) building.
Students Mourn Death of a La Cañada Teen
Video: La Cañada High School Suffers 'A Completely Saddening and Horribly Devastating Event'