Atascadero prank suspect drops out of Cuesta College

March 15, 2016

Bret Stephen LandenThe 18-year-old man accused of an elaborate prank that shut down an Atascadero elementary school has dropped out of Cuesta College. Bret Stephen Landen, 18, stopped taking classes at the community college after his enrollment became the focus of a publicized legal dispute. [KSBY]

Landen, a former 4.0 high school student, is accused of placing a fake chemical weapon at San Gabriel Elementary School on Sept. 11. This year, Landen had been attending Cuesta College despite a court order to stay away from schools.

On Sept. 11, Landen allegedly zip-tied a jar containing chemicals to a fence near the playground at San Gabriel Elementary. He also allegedly left threatening letters around the campus as part of a stunt mimicking the horror movie “Saw.”

Landen’s alleged prank brought out the bomb squad and led to a two-week shutdown of the elementary school. Police arrested Landen in October, and last week, he pleaded not guilty to 30 felony charges.

In December, San Luis Obispo Judge Jacquelyn Duffy issued an order prohibiting Landen from using or possessing weapons, firearms and ammunition. The court order also mandated that Landen stay at least 100 yards away from all schools except for Chalk Mountain Community School, a campus for at-risk youth.

Nonetheless, Landen had been enrolled at Cuesta College since the spring semester began on Jan. 19. He was registered for 11 units.

College officials announced Monday that Landen had dropped out. However, Cuesta College is still working with the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether it has the legal authority to enforce the order barring Landen from schools.

The issue is scheduled to be addressed on Wednesday when Landen appears in court for a pre-preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors have charged Landen with 27 counts of making threats to commit a crime of violence, two counts of second-degree commercial burglary and one count of threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The Atascadero Unified School District is also seeking restitution. The stunt cost the school district an estimated $206,000.

Following Landen’s arrest, his father said the elementary school incident was an ill-conceived prank that was not meant to hurt anyone or cause terror.



  1. pasoparent5 says:

    Hard to believe there weren’t security cameras in place and that an elementary school campus was so accessible to an intruder.

    As for the guy’s intentions–he sat back for 2 weeks knowing that his actions traumatized many kids, teachers and community members. He’s either mentally unstable or just a punk who next time may escalate his crime into a deadly one.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  2. slojustice says:

    The way college students are behaving these days, it might be best that he not attend college. He might not be able to digest the socialist propaganda and It will assist him in his goal of being a terrorist.

    (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
  3. hotgrandma says:

    I don’t know who needs punishment more — the smarmy kid or his father. This wasn’t funny! I don’t see where the parents contacted law enforcement or the school to explain. I saw what it did to two families on my block when the children were forced to attend different schools. Imagine the fear the small children had. School is one of those places a child should be safe.

    (11) 11 Total Votes - 11 up - 0 down
  4. Rich in MB says:

    Ok, it wasn’t a prank.
    It was nuts.
    It was stupid.
    Now the questions is what do we do to this kid?

    Do we give him a punishment, make him pay his debt to society and let him earn an education to become a contributing member of society?
    Do we forever banish him, forbid to let him get an education, and become a contributing member of society one day?

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished…he should.
    But even e Murder gets out of jail one day.

    Let’s not let our anger cloud what is right in this kids case.

    (6) 22 Total Votes - 14 up - 8 down
    • mej says:

      I think he needs a good psychological examination. If he’s mentally ill, then put him in ASH. If he isn’t and if he isn’t violent or a danger, then give him 6 months in jail and several years of probation. I think it all comes down to his mental health.

      (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      Who forbid him from an education? The judge said he could go to Chalk Mountain.

      (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
  5. Jorge Estrada says:

    At this age, some males have the bad luck of mental health issues coming into their lives. I know of some that were inflicted at age 19. How do you spell schizophrenia? This was a very sudden onset that seemed to come from no where! Meds for life or worse.

    (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down
    • mej says:

      He’d fair better if he is just a narcissistic punk who needs to be locked away for a couple of years….Much better for him than a lifetime sentence of terror.

      (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  6. OldNed says:

    Even if something like that starts as a prank, it ceases to be one when law enforcement becomes involved, a school is closed for weeks, and kids and parents are afraid to go near campus. When things started to go off the rails, the Merry Prankster should call to say it was all a joke. Starting it all was bad enough but sitting by silently while it all spiraled out of control was the real crime.

    (23) 25 Total Votes - 24 up - 1 down
  7. smile4thecamera says:

    I don’t know how this can be called an “elaborate prank.”

    I hope he gets some help.

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down

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