Joseph Simon spotted something May 22 while waiting for his daughter’s Canyon Ridge High School graduation to start.
He saw a young teenage boy — who was about 13 years old — standing at the top of the bleachers on the other side of the College of Southern Idaho’s gymnasium. He was pretending to shoot people in the crowd.
“My wife and I just spotted it at the same time,” Simon said Tuesday. “He suddenly had a longer, dark object with him.”
After looking more closely, he could tell it was some type of umbrella. But it was dim up in the bleachers and difficult to see.
“He just starts taking up sniper positions,” Simon said. “We were just like, ‘what’?”
He took a video of the boy and posted it on his Facebook page. Now, it’s circulating, and sparking concerns among some parents and community members.
The video depicts a young man who is “clearly simulating using a firearm at an event,” CSI public safety director Jim Munn said Tuesday. “It does show that we have to be ever vigilant about how we deploy security personnel and law enforcement during these events. We need to do a better job, I think, at managing and watching the crowds. I think that’s just really important.”
School security is a hot topic nationwide, particularly in the wake of recent mass shootings, including in February at a Parkland, Fla. high school and earlier this month at a Santa Fe, Texas high school.
A CSI faculty member brought the video to Munn’s attention. Munn said he reviewed and forwarded it to the Twin Falls Police Department for investigation. He also reached out to Canyon Ridge High to see if they could help with identifying the child involved.
Twin Falls Police Lt. Terry Thueson didn’t return a message asking about the incident.
The video made its way to school district officials Tuesday, and they’re trying to identify the child, Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said. She said the boy was a guest at graduation and it’s unclear whether he’s a Twin Falls School District student.
“Obviously, it’s concerning at a school event — that kind of behavior — but at the same time, we made sure there were security precautions at that event,” she said.
Twin Falls’ five school resource officers were in attendance, Craner said. The video was a learning experience, she added, to make sure they’re more spread out in the building in the future.
She also said the school district wants people to raise concerns immediately if they see something suspicious so it can be addressed right away.
Canyon Ridge is among a handful of Magic Valley schools that paid to use CSI’s gym or Fine Arts Auditorium for a graduation ceremony this year. CSI security officers search bags of those entering the venues, but there aren’t any metal detectors, Munn said.
A state law implemented in 2014 allows retired law enforcement officers and enhanced concealed-carry permit holders to bring concealed guns onto Idaho’s college campuses. But at large campus venues — such as CSI’s gym, Expo Center and Fine Arts Building — guns are prohibited. At large public events in those spaces, college security officers search bags.
The Twin Falls Police Department does the main security for graduations, Munn said, adding CSI has a good relationship with the police department and it does a good job.
The incident was just a wake-up call, he said, that “diligence is imperative for these kinds of events.”
Simon said the incident opened he and his wife’s eyes that “schools just aren’t safe the way they are.” They plan to homeschool their younger children next year using an online academy.
Simon — a disabled veteran who spent 13 years as a military police officer — is a former Magic Valley resident who traveled from his home in Fort Eustis, Va., to attend his daughter’s graduation. His wife — who serves in the U.S. Army — is stationed at Fort Eustis, where they’ve lived for two years.
Simon said the last thing he wanted to do was raise a ruckus at graduation. He said he looked to the right of where he was sitting, and saw college security and city police officers underneath an overhang. “They just didn’t have the position to see the crowd.”
Eventually, a woman went to the teenager, Simon said, and told him to sit down because graduation was about to start.