A tense hostage standoff ended Tuesday night when a SWAT team stormed a Riverside, California, elementary school, fatally shooting a parent who had barricaded himself in a classroom with a 70-year-old teacher for nearly seven hours, PEOPLE confirms.
The parent, Luvelle Kennon, 27, of Riverside, allegedly held first-grade teacher Linda Montgomery against her will in a classroom at Castle View Elementary School before members of the city’s SWAT team used flash-bang grenades to enter the room and rescue her, Public Information Officer Ryan Railsback said at a press conference Tuesday night.
Students were at lunch at the time, so no children were in the classroom with them, say police.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Kennon, whose daughter reportedly attends first grade at the school, was taken to a local hospital for his injuries and later died, Riverside Police say in a press release. The teacher is safe, say police.
Railsback said he did not yet know what prompted the officer to shoot Kennon or what led the man to allegedly take the teacher hostage. It was not immediately clear whether he was armed.
Authorities are also investigating whether Kennon had previous contact with the teacher, said Railsback.
Montgomery was taken to a local hospital after suffering scrapes and abrasions when she was grabbed and pulled into an empty classroom, he said.
She is “OK, but traumatized,” said police, local TV station KTLA 5 reports.
Montgomery has taught at the school for decades, her daughter, Michelle Montgomery, told ABC 7.
“She loves teaching,” she said.
Kennon’s uncle told ABC 7 that family members took Kennon’s car keys away from him that morning after he suffered a breakdown but that he was still able to get to the school.
“He had a breakdown, and he relapsed again,” Carl Jackson, who said he is Kennon’s uncle, told ABC 7. “That’s all, he’s not dangerous.”
Kennon is “not a bad guy, never been in trouble,” he said. “He’s a good kid, just having an emotional breakdown. He doesn’t have no access to weapons.”
Kennon was seen carrying a backpack but no weapons, say police.
A School District on Edge for Hours
The ordeal began shortly after 11 a.m., when police received a 911 call about a disturbance at the school, authorities say in the release.
Kennon had allegedly forced his way past staff in the main office at Castle View Elementary School, said Riverside Unified spokesman Justin Grayson, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
• PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: 35 Real Cases That Inspired the Show Law & Order is on sale now.
The parent did not check in with the front desk, which is required by the school, said Railsback. A male substitute teacher confronted Kennon, who responded by hitting the teacher in the face, said Railsback.
The substitute teacher’s face was bloodied and his nose was broken, KABC reports. He was treated at a hospital, say police.
“This person is also a hero,” Railsback said, according to ABC 7. “He did everything he could to try to prevent the suspect from taking the teacher into the classroom and being held hostage, to the point where he got hit in the face pretty good.”
After barging past the front desk, Kennon then dragged Montgomery into an empty classroom, say police.
Responding officers isolated the building where Kennon was holding the teacher and put the school in lockdown, before they evacuated students and staff from the school to a nearby park.
During the standoff, crisis negotiators were able to communicate with Kennon but didn’t know whether the teacher was safe, say police in the release.
After hours of trying to convince the suspect to surrender, the release says, authorities made the decision to send a SWAT team into the room about 6 p.m.
The team “entered the classroom to rescue the teacher and an officer-involved shooting occurred,” says the release. “The suspect was shot and the teacher was successfully rescued.”
Police began releasing students to their parents after 1 p.m.
Castle View Elementary School will remain closed for the rest of this week, and crisis counselors and support staff will be available for all students and staff affected by the incident.