School Heroes Help Keep Kids Safe During Shooting Spree at Southern California College

SM Driver Latrice Elie-sm

After the Santa Monica College shooting rampage that ended five lives this month, news reports emerged about heroes who jumped in to lend a hand, including local school workers who made a difference. The school bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and other SEIU Local 99 members at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District worked behind the scenes to ensure the safety of hundreds of nearby students.

On June 7, suspected assailant John Zawahri shot and killed his father and brother, carjacked a woman, fired at a public transit bus and in a subsequent 13-minute, random attack killed three more at the junior college. Zawahri, who was dressed in black and carried an assault-style rifle, reportedly spent more than 70 rounds of ammunition while shooting at random in the campus library before being shot and killed by police. Later, law enforcement announced that he had a history of mental illness. 

As more details about the shooting were released, Santa Monica-Malibu USD officials realized that not all of their students were safely inside “locked down” public school buildings. Some students were enjoying end-of-year events at area parks, while preschoolers were enrolled in programs at the Boys and Girls Club building next to John Adams Middle School, which is located directly in front of Santa Monica College.

Immediately calls went out to school bus drivers to transport these vulnerable children to safety, according to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Despite their coordinated response, the bus drivers and other school staff members later insisted they were “just doing their job” when they calmly ensured the safety of hundreds of young children in schools neighboring the college.

“Our transportation director had to guide me to the kids by radio because the incident triggered a lot of street closures,” said bus driver Latrice Elie (pictured above), who has been with the district 21 years. “It felt good to know we were getting the kids to safety. My own kids used to ride on the school buses. So, to me, I feel like all the children on the bus are my kids.

“In an emergency, you just get together as a group and do what you have to do.”