Armed suspect arrested near school

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest Police Depart-ment arrested an armed suspect who allegedly broke into Pierce Elementary School Wednesday morning.

Arriving at Pierce at about 7 a.m., officers arrested Brian Coats, 30, a resident of Kentucky. When officers contacted Coats, he had a concealed pistol, an AK-47 rifle, a Bushmaster and numerous large capacity magazines.

According to the RPD release, video surveillance at the school shows Coats removing landscaping rocks and prying open the front gate with an axe. He then reportedly entered the school grounds, armed, and took a small desk, table and trash can. Coats was also seen climbing to the top of the school library and running past classrooms.

The video also shows Coats dropping a handgun and retrieving it. That weapon is identified as the same handgun found in his vehicle.

Pierce Principal Pam Barnes circulated a memo to parents the evening of the event, assuring parents that the students were never in any danger.

“I understand that many of you are hearing or seeing police reports about an incident that happened at Pierce School,” she wrote.

“Our early morning staff found a man on the front lawn of the campus acting erratically when they arrived at school. They were concerned and notified the police right away.

“Before the police had arrived, the man had left our campus and entered the desert across the street a good distance away from the school. I want to reassure you that this incident took place very early this morning and was appropriately handled by the police out in the desert across the street from the school before any students arrived.”

Coats is being held in the Kern County Central Receiving Facility in Bakersfield. He is being charged with petty theft, trespassing and numerous firearm possession violations as well as possession of a firearm at a school.

Story First Published: 2017-01-06