Man killed in school hostage standoff was father of student; unclear if armed
aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — For more than six hours on Halloween, first grade teacher Linda Montgomery was held hostage at Castle View Elementary School in Riverside, California.
Police say Luvelle Kennon, whose daughter is in Montgomery’s class, barricaded himself inside a classroom with her and engaged them in a standoff that lasted into the evening, when SWAT team members launched flash-bang grenades, stormed the classroom and shot Kennon dead.
Police have not yet said whether the 27-year-old was armed, but his uncle told reporters he was harmless.
The incident began shortly after 11 a.m., when police say Kennon sought out Montgomery, allegedly grabbing the 70 year-old, and hauling her into a classroom.
When another male teacher attempted to intercede – trying to push his way into the barricaded room, he was beaten, suffering a broken nose, say police and eyewitnesses.
For hours hostage negotiators attempted to talk him down.
Carl Jackson, who spoke to ABC News affiliate KABC as the standoff was still unfolding, identified himself as Kennon’s uncle and explained that his nephew suffered from mental issues but was harmless.
Kennon was carrying at least one backpack, police and witnesses said, but it isn’t clear if he was armed.
“He doesn’t have no access to no weapons,” Jackson said, before the rescue was initiated.
The uncle also explained that his nephew was “not a bad guy, never been in trouble” and was merely experiencing a “breakdown.”
“He’s a good kid, [he’s] just having an emotional breakdown,” he said.
There was some initial concern that Kennon may have been armed with some kind of incendiary device when police said they spotted smoke emitting from the classroom.
“It was coming from the room but it was not toxic and it dissipated,” officer Ryan Railsback of the Riverside Police Department told ABC News.
Jackson said that if a relative could only talk to Kennon, they might have been able to get him to surrender.
“It’s just a matter of getting in there and talking to him, because we can talk to him,” he said. “He’ll come out for us if the police let us, before anything bad happen [sic] to him.”
Railsback told ABC News that Kennon’s family was involved in trying to get him to cooperate with police.
“Our emergency negotiators were working with family members to help try to convince the suspect to surrender,” he said. “He just wouldn’t comply with the demands … It’s a very unfortunate and tragic that the situation escalated to this and led to this,” he said.
Kennon communicated with Riverside police when they used loudspeakers, a PA system and cell phone calls to speak with him.
But Railsback said Kennon “was barricaded in there pretty good” which limited the visuals, and he often went quiet for long spells.
“The suspect was talking but still refusing to come out and refusing to surrender,” he said.
Most troubling was that Kennon allegedly never communicated the hostage’s condition to police.
“We had our SWAT team out there ready to act if the surrender was to happen,” he said. “But we also had an elderly female teacher in there that we started to not know her condition.
“Had she had any food [or] water? Was she assaulted? … It became enough that the decision was made that our SWAT team would go in and rescue her.”
Pressed about whether Kennon was armed, Railsback said that the details were still being investigated.
“We’re specifically speaking to the officers involved and the victim,” he said.
Afterward, the tactical team carried Kennon away on a stretcher where he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Kennon often posted selfies online and quoted Bob Marley and sometimes posted thoughts about life and death.
Among pictures of a young baby girl, multiple times last year he posted the same black-and-white image depicting a forest with white letters read: “You weren’t born to just pay bills and die.”
In another selfie, Kennon appeared in shades, a sheer green jacket and straw hat. He captioned the photo: “That’s the way to go fam only one life to live”
In another post last summer, Kennon expressed gratitude.
“Blessed to be getting a house soon. never had an apartment and never wanted one,” he wrote.
He went on: “lonely at the top. its love at the bottom.”
Montgomery managed to escape almost unscathed with only minor injuries, police and her family said.
“She’s been a teacher at this school since I was in kindergarten — 27 years,” Montgomery’s daughter Michelle told KABC.
She said she learned about her mom’s hostage crisis in a phone call and that she wasn’t certain it was actually her.
“We weren’t sure if it was my mom or not,” she initially said, until she later confirmed the troubling news.
She said her mom was “a little worried and scared and wondering why this is going on” but that despite surviving the hostage situation, she won’t quit.
“She loves teaching, she’s still teaching.”
As for the injured teacher who suffered the broken nose, he is being hailed as a hero.
“This person is a also a hero,” Railsback said. “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.”
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