A memory branded into Mustang minds

Walnut students share their experiences from the other side of the stadium during Branding Iron.

It was the last minute of the Branding Iron game. On the scoreboard, yellow numbers showed the Brahmas down 27-20.

Walnut High School Mustang cheers rang through the bleachers as they prepared to claim their second win in a row in the rivalry, but what they saw next puzzled them.

Crowds of Diamond Bar High School supporters began leaving the stands in droves as both football teams and the Walnut crowd looked on.

Suddenly, the Brahma players bolted to the fence and jumped over it, running into the residential neighborhood next to Holmes Stadium.

Walnut High School students then noticed their own team also rushing over the fence, following the Diamond Bar players.

While many Brahmas witnessed the mayhem that ensued on the night of the Branding Iron football game, Mustang fans had equally frightening experiences during the event.

“Everyone pulled out their Snapchats because at first, it looked like a facetious act of forfeiting the game,” WHS senior Andrei Dimano said. “Furthermore, the Walnut coaches and football staff pointed at the DB football, and it seemed like they were gesturing to run after them so that they don’t escape from the game.”

Soon, word spread among both the DBHS and WHS crowds that there was a shooter at the football game.

When students began finding out, they immediately began leaving the bleachers and run out of the stadium as fast as they could.

“Everyone on our side started to push and I heard someone yell, ‘Shooter!,’” WHS senior Rachel Zhang said. “I grabbed my friend and ran for my life because at that moment, we all thought the threat was real.”

Zhang and her friend hopped the fence. After they found a mutual friend, the trio got picked up by an Associated Student Body student who had jumped into her car. The group then drove to H-Mart and went to hide out in a restaurant until Zhang’s parents came.

WHS junior Preston Patam stayed in the bleachers since he was unable to navigate through the terrified crowd.

Within moments, security and teachers yelled at the remaining students in the stands to get down.

“I laid down and there were a bunch of people around me freaking out and crying,” Patam said. “After a couple minutes, they told us we could get up and they assured everyone that we were safe. People were still very panicked and shaken, though.”

WHS senior Kaitlyn Suzuki and her fellow band members sat in the marching band section when they heard their band director shout at them to get down.

“I was still processing the situation, so I was mainly in shock because in the moment, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening,” Suzuki said. “But after a while, I was definitely afraid as some of the reality set in.”

When a friend tapped Angela Cao on her shoulder and told her there was a shooter, the WHS senior hopped over a fence and ran into a nearby residential area.

There, she waited with some homeowners for her parents to pick her up.

“I was really shocked by how something like this—that we see so often in the news—actually happened to us,” Cao said. “It is crazy how a rumor can cause mass panic so quickly and without any real evidence simply because of the volatile environment today.”

Throughout all of the panic and chaos, WHS senior Jonathan Wang managed to remain calm while exiting.

He had noticed that many people were falling down and getting trampled, so he walked to lower the risk of injury.

“It was really unexpected and it gave me a new perspective on the world and the people in it,” Wang said. “I’m not sure how to put it in words, but it really made me see how ignorant someone can be to be able to make a joke or prank like that and not see the negative side of it.”

Although some students said they wished there had been better security measures, others expressed gratitude for the staff and security guards who attended the Branding Iron game for staying with them in the bleachers throughout the situation.

“I felt relieved that everyone was safe and for the most part unharmed, and also happy that the staff was able to deal with the situation as well as they did,” WHS junior Taylor Torreyson said.

Despite the fact that the shooter threat turned out to be false, students were still shaken up as they messaged their friends to check if they were safe and uninjured.

“I don’t think I truly felt the effects of the ordeal until I got home, because that’s when I truly understood the severity of the situation and what was at stake,” Suzuki said.

Days after Branding Iron, people exchanged stories about what happened to them that Friday night.

More than two thousand people signed a petition that called for more efficient school security measures, and both DBHS and WHS have begun increasing efforts to inform and better prepare teachers and students for emergency shooter situations.