unedited from may tahoe mt. news
By Kathryn Reed
Johnelle Prado does not question what she saw March 27 behind Zephyr Cove Elementary School.
“It is really frustrating to me to have people say maybe it was a stick. I would not have called 911 for a stick,” Prado said. “It was a like a shotgun. He was carrying it with both hands. It did not look like the guns that the police brought which had scopes.”
The sighting led to all three Douglas County schools at the Lake to be on lockdown for much of that day.
Now potentially slanderous emails are circulating among Douglas County parents and school employees about the school aide. One writer questions whether Prado should have a job for calling deputies. Others praise her bravery and would want her to make the same decision in the future.
Part of the controversy arose from last month’s Tahoe Mountain News that said officers thought the item Prado said she saw may have been something other than a gun. She is emphatic a man dressed all in black was carrying a gun behind the school.
“He was holding it so he could turn and shoot at anytime, with the barrel up toward the sky. He was not aiming it toward me,” Prado said of the man she saw. She describes him as between 5-feet-10 and 6-feet-tall, no facial hair. She isn’t sure of his race, but said he wasn’t black.
After seeing him she raced inside, told office staff what she saw and then made the 911 call. The intercom message that the school was on lockdown and that it was not a drill could be heard outside as well. That may have scared off the person.
In an email to the paper last month, Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Halsey wrote, “The reporting party said she saw a man carrying what she believed to be a rifle or shotgun. That’s how we handled the call, but we found no evidence to substantiate the information. I know people routinely hike in that area of the woods, and they often carry walking sticks. Beyond that, I cannot comment other than to say, ‘I’m glad she called’. Better to check and find nothing, than to ignore it and have a tragic death.”
The sheriff’s department has closed the case.
“With exception of those prints made by deputies, no footprints or shoe sole impressions were found in the area where she said she saw the person. If there had been shoe sole impressions, we would have tracked them with our K9,” Halsey said.
One change that has resulted from the March incident is how outside doors are locked at the school.
“To this day I still can picture him in my head,” Prado said.