Classes resume after Taft school shooting, more security on hand

TAFT, Calif. -- Students headed back to class at Taft Union High School for the first time since a shooting on campus. Tuesday morning, they were greeted by staff and an increased law enforcement presence.

Meanwhile, a group of military veterans volunteered to be on hand at community schools, but were asked not to be present at the high school.

It was Thursday morning that a Taft High student allegedly opened fire in a second-floor science class, injuring a classmate and attempting to shoot another teenager.

Taft police had extra officers at the high school campus on Tuesday.

"We've added additional officers to be on campus throughout the day for the next several weeks," Taft Police Lt. Pete Aranda told Eyewitness News. "We're just trying to reassure everybody that we're trying to keep the community and the school safe."

That's the same reason the veterans were posted at all the other schools.

"I'm out here for the kids," Craig Gotcher told Eyewitness News. He's with the California Army National Guard, and was standing in front of either Roosevelt School or Lincoln Junior High.

Gotcher said he grew up in Taft, and that's why he responded when the group "Vets Against School Shooting" put out the word they wanted to help.

Group organizer Heather Foss said the idea is to help the community feel safer. They ended up with 13 vets responding, and had at least one at every school in Taft, except the high school.

"The Chief of Police called me yesterday," Foss explained. "They appreciated our gesture of our presence being there, but they do have a lot going on (at the high school) today."

Lt. Aranda said his department does appreciate the vets' help. "They're going to contact the Taft Police Department if they see anything out of the ordinary," he said. "Kind of like a neighborhood watch kind of program," The vets did not have weapons with them.

At Jefferson Elementary, a retired Marine stood out front. "If we can make the kids feel a little bit safer, then we've done whatever we need to do," Steve Long told Eyewitness News.

At about noon, a kindergarten class came out front and all the kids had their picture taken with the veteran. The teacher asked the children to thank him.

One mother showed up with some snacks for the vet, and said her seven-year-old son has been affected by the shooting -- even though it was at the high school.

Amy Juarez said her little boy was glad there would be a vet at his school. "He told me I didn't have to be scared, 'cause he was going to be safe because 'army guys' were going to be at his school," she said.

Another car pulled through the Jefferson School parking lot, and a woman yelled out her thanks to the retired Marine.

At the high school, staff was on hand to greet the students. A number of kids were seen wearing shirts with drawings of Spider-Man on them. The injured student is a big Spider-Man fan.

At last word, Bowe Cleveland was hospitalized in what doctors call improved condition. A surgeon at Kern Medical Center told Eyewitness news on Monday that Cleveland was being taken out of an induced coma, and his condition is no longer considered life-threatening.

On Tuesday, Taft High officials would only say "things went smoothly" on the first day back to class.

But some parents say their students are still fearful.

"She was up all night last night, shaking and crying," one mother told Eyewitness News. That parent said her daughter wouldn't come to class.

This mother also worries that families didn't get enough information. "I think we all should have gotten answers," she said. "The children -- the parents -- before anybody was let back."

The mother said school officials told her there will be a meeting, but they don't have answers yet.

On Monday, student Bryan Oliver, 16, was arraigned on charges of attempted murder and assault with a firearm. He pleaded not guilty to the five felony counts, and is expected back in court in late February.

Officers say he got a shotgun from his brother, and walked into his first-period class with the weapon. Oliver allegedly shot Cleveland, then called out the name of a second student he intended to shoot.

Oliver apparently fired at least one more shot, but didn't hit anyone. The science teacher was reportedly grazed by a shot. The teacher and a campus supervisor talked Oliver into putting the gun down, and he was arrested at the scene.

Police reports filed with the court case show Oliver told an officer he fired at the two classmates because they "annoyed" and "bullied" him.

Taft Police Lt. Aranda said his department hopes the extra officers on campus will add security and reassurance. And, help prevent more issues.

"If there are any other people out there that are being harassed or victimized by bullies or whatever, that they feel free to come forward," Aranda said. He hopes students will talk to the officers, "so that we can try to prevent any future incidents like this."