Teacher accidentally fires gun in California high school safety class, injuring 3 teens

Dennis Alexander
Dennis Alexander City of Seaside

Dennis Alexander told his California high school class Tuesday that he was going to check his pistol to be sure it was unloaded before conducting a lesson on disarming an attacker, parent Fermin Gonzales told KSBW. Then a single gunshot rang out.

Alexander had accidentally fired into the ceiling during his administration of justice class at Seaside High School, reported KSBW. Two teens were hit by debris falling from the ceiling, while a third was hit by fragments from the ricocheting bullet. Alexander apologized and the class continued. Alexander is also a reserve police officer in nearby Sand City on Monterey Bay.

Gonzales told KSBW that his 17-year-old son came home from school with blood on his shirt and bullet fragments in his neck.

“He’s shaken up but he’s going to be OK,” Gonzales said. “I’m just pretty upset that no one told us anything and we had to call the police ourselves to report it.”

An email from the Monterey Penninsula Unified School District to parents after school Tuesday said Alexander has been placed on leave while it investigates the incident, reported The Monterey Herald. Counseling will be available to any students who need it, the email said.

The Sand City Police Department told Monterey County Weekly that it also has placed Alexander on leave pending an investigation.

P.K. Diffenbaugh, superintendent of the school district, told the publication that state law and school policies forbid non-authorized personnel from carrying a firearm on campus. Alexander was not authorized by the district to have a gun on campus.

“We’ll need to revisit protocol to make sure all staff members understand that is the policy,” Diffenbaugh said.

Alexander, also a Seaside City Council member, has been a reserve officer with the Sand City Police Department for 11 years with a “positive and professional” reputation, Chief Brian Ferrante told KSBW. He was the department’s 2013 reserve officer of the year. His administration of justice class at Seaside High School is designed for students considering careers in law enforcement.

“It’s the craziest thing,” Gonzales, father of the injured teen, told the station. “It could have been very bad.”

The incident took place in the midst of a national debate about proposals to arm qualified teachers to bolster security at schools following a series of school shootings, including a Feb. 14 attack at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed 17. A national school walkout will take place Wednesday to honor those victims and press for stronger gun laws.