APTOS — A 17-year-old Aptos High School senior died Tuesday evening after he was stabbed multiple times on campus.
Two of the victim’s peers were arrested soon after and were scheduled Tuesday night to be booked into Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall on murder charges, Sheriff Jim Hart said during an 8 p.m. press conference.
Hart told reporters that he was unaware of any similar events occurring on a local high school campus during his more than three decades with the agency or since he himself attended high school in the county. He said the investigation was still developing, with about 25 of his personnel assigned to the case. Hart said he was not prepared to comment on whether or not the attack was gang motivated.
“We know that this is a difficult time for the family and the friends of the victim,” Hart said. “As the father of four children, one of them being a young son, I can’t imagine the grief that this family is going through tonight. Our thoughts are with the family and the school family, as well, during this very very difficult time.”
The Sheriff’s Office was called to the high school at 2:23 p.m. for an assault that officials believe was “an isolated incident,” an agency spokesperson posted to Facebook. Deputies arrived at the school within five minutes of the call and requested that the entire campus be placed on lockdown soon after, Hart said. Deputies located the injured teen near the school’s swimming pool — though that may not have been where he was assaulted — and immediately began administering CPR, Hart said.
By 4 p.m., the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office had detained a 14-year-old freshman and 17-year-old senior suspected of being involved with the stabbing, but continued to investigate whether or not they were involved while the school remained on lockdown through at least 5:30 p.m.
“We’re still in the early stages of this investigation but we have learned that there may be some cell phone footage of the stabbing, that a student or two may have that information, that data, on their phone,” Hart said. “What I’m asking is that those students, those families, please come forward and provide us with that evidence. It could be critical to this case.”
Hart said those who had witnessed and/or filmed the stabbing would not be looked at for criminal charges.
Aptos High School will be shuttered to in-person classes and other school activities on Wednesday and Thursday while detectives continue their investigation, Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said. A district crisis intervention team, however, will provide crisis and grief counseling services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Cabrillo Community College campuses in both Aptos’ 100 Building and Watsonville’s Building A, she said. Additional support will be provided back at the Aptos High campus from Friday onward.
“As an educational community, we are experiencing extreme grief,” Rodriguez said. “We are not only grieving the loss of a student, but also struggling with a sense of safety and security.”
Additional crisis services are available through the Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, at 831-728-6445, and Santa Cruz County Mental Health, at 831-454-4170. An online community forum also is being organized for 7 p.m. Thursday via Zoom, though details for the event were not immediately available Tuesday.
Sheriff’s Office officials declined Tuesday to release the identities or cities of residence for any of the teenagers involved in the stabbing.
Members of the public with information or evidence in the case are asked to call Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office detective Sgt. Billy Burnett at 831-454-7702. Parents and students with questions regarding school procedures and resources available to students are asked to call Aptos High School. The Sheriff’s Office will be providing the school with investigation updates to share with students and parents.
Contributed by local news sources