Shooting 01

In the days following a shooting that left two teenagers injured and prompted an evacuation of Liberty Ranch High School, the Herald spoke with officials from Galt Police Department and Galt Joint Union High School District about the situation.

The high school district superintendent said good communication with the city allowed the district to respond quickly in an uncertain situation. Galt police leaders said it is too early in their investigation to release much information.

“We understand the community’s concern and need for information because, in the absence of real good information, you just kind of invite speculation,” Galt police Capt. Richard Small said in an interview on March 17. “But there are certain things in the investigation that we just have to protect in order to have an effective investigation and find the people responsible.”

The police have confirmed through press releases that they received reports around 5:30 p.m. on March 15 of a drive-by shooting at the intersection of Marengo and Twin Cities roads. In a vehicle at the scene, officers found a 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy who had both been shot multiple times; a 17-year-old in the car with them was uninjured.

The two injured teens were taken to the hospital; one was later released, but the other remains in critical condition.

The police have not released any information about the identity of the suspects or possible motive.

During the interview, Small and Chief of Police Brian Kalinowski said they believe there is some connection between the perpetrators and those who were hurt.

“We feel confident at this time that this was not just a random act,” Small said.

Kalinowski added that the event was an “isolated incident” and said it is not a situation “where somebody has to worry about the safety of their children. As long your children are where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to be doing, there shouldn’t be an issue.”

They doubted that the attack had a direct connection to Liberty Ranch, which is a few hundred yards south of the Marengo-Twin Cities intersection. Kalinowski said the people involved were traveling east on Twin Cities.

“This one car was going to turn ultimately on Marengo, but they weren’t coming from the high school per se,” Kalinowski said, continuing that the police “don’t have any information that these kids were enrolled in school currently.”

Police staff is working “incredibly hard” to investigate the shooting, Kalinowski said, but he acknowledged that the process is slow work.

“Our hearts go out to the families that were impacted by this,” Kalinowski said, also recognizing the emotional effects for the school community and the officers who responded to the initial call.

The police are encouraging anyone who may have witnessed or have information about the shooting to call 209-366-7000.

Superintendent praises response

Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUHSD) Superintendent described a “great” response from principals and city staff following the shooting.

Speaking after a school board meeting on March 16, Pettis said she had left Liberty Ranch minutes before the police heard about the shooting. As she was on her way home, City Manager Lorenzo Hines Jr. called to tell her what had happened.

She “immediately” called Joe Saramago and Joe Schallberger, the principals of Liberty Ranch and Estrellita Continuation High School, respectively. While it was after school hours, adult education was in session on campus, and a stunt competition was taking place. Plus, buses were bringing students back from sporting events.

Saramago and Schallberger “were able to move everybody out off of the campus safely and notified the parents,” Pettis said. When the buses arrived, the two helped contact parents to pick up their children.

“I was very proud of these two, especially Mr. Schallberger, who is very new to the district, so they knew exactly what to do,” she said.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Pettis said staff at all district campuses, including Galt High School, were sent home for the day. At Galt High, some students at a track competition were asked to leave campus.

Pettis commended the overall response to the shooting, saying Hines kept her and her elementary-school counterpart, Superintendent Lois Yount, updated on Galt police activity.

Pettis briefly addressed the shooting during the board meeting.

“The work that we’ve done together with the city to link our communication when it comes to safety and emergencies paid off last night,” she said, noting the various measures involved. “Unfortunately, it was a bad situation, but we were prepared.”