Authorities evacuated Cal State University, Los Angeles Thursday following telephone bomb threats that were ultimately determined to be unfounded, authorities said.
The threat came in the form of two phone calls received by El Monte police between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said.
CSULA officials began evacuating the campus about noon, CSULA Paul Browning said.
In addition the college’s own Department of Public Safety, Los Angeles police, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s bomb squad officials and Los Angeles County firefighters responded to the scene, officials said.
Detective Mike Cofield of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said bomb squad members swept the campus with explosive-sniffing dogs.
But the search was called off about 2:30 p.m., LAPD Officer Christopher No said.
“Nothing was found.”
But school administrators still decided to cancel classes for the remainder of the day, CSULA spokesman Paul Browning said, adding that students were notified of the situation via social media and text alerts.
“It was a very calm and successful evacuation,” Browning said, adding that the evacuation was also announced over the school’s loud speaker.
Students first gathered in the quad, but then were asked to leave campus, Browning added. Many stood in groups on the outskirts of campus waiting for the “all clear.” The student dormitories were the first areas to be declared safe at about 1:45 p.m.
Sophomore Amy Gonzalez, 19, said she was in her dorm room when campus safety officers knocked at her door and told her she needed to evacuate.
“At first I just though it was a drill, but then when I saw the bomb squad and all the helicopters, I knew it was real,” she said.
“It was shocking,” Gonzalez said. “We are just college students, why would someone want to bomb us?”
Both threats were phoned in from pay phones within El Monte, Cobian said. One was in the 11200 block of Garvey Avenue, while the other was made from the 3800 block of Peck Road, he added.
Officers searched the area but found no possible suspects, police said.
Both calls were made by a person with what sounded like a male voice, Cobian said.
But whether the calls were made by the same person, “It can only be assumed, because of the closeness in timing and proximity.”
The first call stated that a bomb had been placed at CSULA, as well as “Cal Berkeley” – a reference to the University of California, Berkeley, Cobian said.
Police notified officials at the northern California school as well, he added.
The investigation was being spearheaded by the LAPD, officials said.
After moving about 10 feet in her car in a 30-minute time span as she tried to leave the campus, CSULA student Veronica Arroyo left her vehicle in the parking lot to exit the school on foot.
“I thought it was the safest and most intelligent thing to do,” she said.
Arroyo described the scene as “chaotic.”
Just after noon, academic adviser Jimmy Solis, of Whittier, heard a fire alarm as he worked in the campus library.
He and fellow staff proceeded to their designated areas as practiced in fire drills.
“We waited about 15 minutes in our specific location until campus police told us to evacuate the area because the campus was closed,” Solis said.
He returned to the library to gather his belongings, along the way telling people what campus police had told him.
Solis was able to leave the grounds in his car because he always parks near an exit.
- Brian Day, Lauren Gold, Sandra Molina