ARCADIA – A 23-year-old man was in custody Friday after he entered Foothills Middle School, was asked to leave by school officials and then left what appeared to be a “homemade explosive device” near a Foothill Boulevard bank, school district and police officials said.
Joshua Parradavis, 23, of Arcadia was booked on suspicion of possession of an explosive device, Arcadia police Lt. Paul Foley said.
The Bank of America, the McDonald’s and a strip mall parking lot on Foothill Avenue were among the areas evacuated for a few hours until the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad successfully detonated the device in the early afternoon. Traffic was also blocked with police cars between First and Second Avenues during this time.
“We were checking the backpack, found a suspicious item and called the bomb squad on it,” Police Sgt. Vaughn Whalen said at the scene. “They have since done whatever the bomb squad does back there.”
The suspect, later identified as Parradavis, was at the middle school’s campus trying to open up classroom doors before he was asked to leave and school officials called the police about 10 a.m.
He told someone at the school he was a former student, though it was not clear late Friday if that was true.
The suspect left the school and was seen dropping a backpack in bushes near the Bank of America and then ran through the parking lot where officers detained him, police officials said.
After the police found the suspicious device, the school was directed to go into lockdown while officers searched the school for anything out of the ordinary, said Arcadia Unified School District Superintendent Joel Shawn.
The suspicious device was described by police as having the appearance of a metal pipe bomb.
Nothing was found and the school was released from lockdown at about 1:30 p.m. after the object was detonated, he said.
“We have no idea why (the suspect) was on campus,” Shawn said. “He was not supposed to be on campus.”
There was no immediate danger to students or staff and procedures were implemented “flawlessly,” he said, adding that he was thankful for Arcadia police, fire and county sheriff’s departments that cooperated to resolve the incident.
About 16 McDonald’s employees were sitting outside a nearby KFC restaurant eating their lunch, waiting to be allowed back inside early Friday afternoon.
“They just told us to get outside and here we are,” said one employee, who declined to give his name, shortly before he and other employees were allowed back inside around 1:15 p.m.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Parradavis was being held in lieu of $500,521 bail and was due for arraignment Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
The incident is being investigated by Arcadia police, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail and the FBI.