Atascadero teen pleads guilty to criminal threats

April 20, 2016

Bret Stephen LandenThe Atascadero teen whose threats caused the two-week shutdown of San Gabriel Elementary School in September agreed Wednesday to plea no contest to two felony charges in exchange for a one year sentence.

The agreement also requires Bret Stephen Landen to make restitution. The stunt cost the school district an estimated $206,000.

Landen was 17 years old when he placed a fake chemical weapon on the grounds of San Gabriel Elementary School. The Atascadero teen turned 18 on Nov. 7, apparently while in custody. He was tried as an adult.

Prosecutors originally 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.

On Wednesday, Landen pled no contest to threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and criminal threats.

On Sept. 11, when the San Luis Obispo County bomb squad arrived at the elementary school, officers found a suspicious jar containing chemicals zip-tied to a fence near the playground. A note placed nearby said the jar contained cyanide mixed with a strong acid.

However, laboratory tests showed the substance was not capable of producing a dangerous gas.

Landen also left threatening letters around campus that were addressed to teachers and directed them to the jar with the suspicious substance. The notes also discussed playing a game and warned that children could be at risk.

Following Landen’s arrest, his father said the San Gabriel Elementary School incident was an ill-conceived prank that was not meant to hurt anyone or cause terror.
Landen’s sentencing is scheduled for June 1.



  1. Jorge Estrada says:

    This kid is going to get an education on the topic of consequences, a four year degree would have been easier. Both will last a life time, a choice for others to consider.

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
    • achillesheal says:

      The question is would a 4-year degree be as expensive as the $206k? Pretty close for a private school. State or UC he would save some money getting the degree.

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  2. r0y says:

    So did he plead GUILTY, as the title of the article says, or did he plead NO CONTEST, as the body of the article says?

    The Atascadero teen whose threats caused the two-week shutdown of San Gabriel Elementary School in September agreed Wednesday to plea no contest to two felony charges in exchange for a one year sentence.

    (7) 13 Total Votes - 10 up - 3 down
  3. DocT says:

    Several things here:

    1. no child or adult was ever, at any time in danger of any kind.
    2. The 2 week vacation was not due to Landon’s actions but due to a VERY overzealous attitude on the part of the “authorities.”
    3. Wrecking landon’s life doesn’t help anyone except maybe some prosecutor who wants to pad his resume with a “win.”

    Should there be punishment and restitution? Yes, there should.

    But this has been blown way out of proportion and the enhanced “anti-terror” laws are destroying a young man’s future….a young man with poor judgement, like many other young men. Again, nothing he did could harm anyone.

    Destroying Landon’s life is a far worse crime than what Landon committed.

    (2) 68 Total Votes - 35 up - 33 down
    • achillesheal says:

      If I walk on a school campus with an unloaded automatic rifle and a sign that says I am going to shoot everyone I see, no child or adult is in real danger. It is still a crime and You can bet that my life will change, and not for the better.

      He is responsible for the consequences of his actions and the consequences are likely long term, however, if he straightens out his thinking, he can be a productive member of society.

      (8) 22 Total Votes - 15 up - 7 down
    • surferdude says:

      Are you Landon’s dad?

      (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
      • DocT says:

        No, I’m not even a friend of the family, although my kids went through Atascadero schools.

        I’m a parent. I survived my teenage years and did all kinds of stupid stuff, like so many others.

        Landon committed a crime. There is no doubt about that. His crime created fear.

        He seems to be very intelligent, albeit extremely unwise, and his crime was pre-meditated. Given that fact, he PURPOSELY chose a non-toxic, non-lethal, Inflammable liquid that couldn’t hurt anyone. No one was ever in danger of their lives and no damage to property occured.

        How does destroying his life and future help anyone? If you can explain that to me, I’d be very appreciative.

        Again, he committed a crime and should be punished accordingly. But the response to his crime and the total BS “war on terror” enhancements are wrong in every way. This sort of mob mentality based on fear will only grow and it could very well ruin YOUR life or someone you love.

        Now, if he had done something that could have actually harmed someone, I’d have a very, very different opinion on the matter.

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


          How is his life destroyed beyond the punishment that you say he deserves.

          You say he is intelligent (as was the unibomber). What intelligent 17 year old would target an elementary school for the purpose of creating fear to the teachers, kids, and particularly the parents?

          You mention you did all sorts of stupid things. As did I. Throwing snowballs at cars, stealing candy bars, driving around with open container of alcohol, among others.. How many people in their teenage years thought it would be fun to make a terrorist threat at an elementary school?

          I hate unchecked government power as much as anyone, however, I hate people who threaten kids even more.

          (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
          • DocT says:

            You drove around with an open container? You drank alcohol and drove as a kid? I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on that very, very serious crime, but this week alone more teens were killed in this county due to driving intoxicated than were killed by sick pranks like Landon’s.

            You should report yourself and take the punishment you deserve. Especially since you seem to be so very keen on seeing that Landon gets his.

            As for me, I did several things that caused fear to teachers, kids and parents when I was growing up. Like so many others my age, I played with explosives, destroyed property, public and private, terrorized “scrubs” on a certain school day, threw a lifelike dummy off the school roof during a well attended swim meet and much more.

            All the things I did, and those you admitted to are WORSE than what Landon did. Landon’s crime didn’t and couldn’t harm anyone. Your crime could have easily resulted in death….AND YOU SKATED FREE!!

            Why do you want to punish him so severely when you are guilty of worse? Answer that and I’ll make a long list of why his punishment is going to ruin his life.

            Stupid pranks like his are crimes. They deserve punishment. No one is disputing that. But because it resembles “terror” and people have been taught to be scared wimps these days, everything is blown way out of proportion.

            There are people who commit violent crimes where people do get hurt who aren’t punished as severely as this young man.

            This is a very, very bad road we’re going down and we’ll all feel pain now that we have adopted this insane, emotionally based concept of “justice.”

            Show some mercy!

            (5) 11 Total Votes - 8 up - 3 down
            • achillesheal says:

              Wow. I think you may be delusional. Driving with open container worse than making terrorist threats? Check the punishment for these crimes, you will see which society feels is worse.

              What if a 2nd grader had dared another to drink what was in the bottle or one threw it in the eyes of another?

              (-2) 10 Total Votes - 4 up - 6 down
              • DocT says:

                This is my last comment. I’ve said all I need to say about Landon. This comment is an answer to yours, and has little to do with Landon.

                “What if a 2nd grader drank it?” He would have probably had a bad taste in his mouth, perhaps a stomach ache, most likely not. No damage, just a bad taste in his mouth. No eye damage either. The substance was non-toxic in every way. You don’t seem to realize that, or perhaps you’re too focused on the “terror” part.

                Using your logic:

                What if you would have crashed your car when you were drinking and driving? Like the kids who died a few days ago on the grade?

                Again, using your logic: society once said slavery was OK. Society once said women could not vote. Would you have stood with society on those issues? Not me.

                I don’t care if society thinks empty threats are worse than drunk driving. A brief reflection on the matter will reveal that threats can’t harm anyone if there is nothing to back them up, while driving drunk is deadly.

                If society thinks empty threats are worse crimes than driving drunk, society is wrong… “society” was wrong about slavery, women suffrage and so many more things.

                That is all. I’ve made my point.

                (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
                • achillesheal says:

                  Unfortunately for Landen, we all live in a post Columbine, Middletown Ohio, San Bernardino society.

                  A threat is a communicated intent to inflict harm on another and it is made to elicit fear. That is the crime and it is a serious one. If I threaten to kill my neighbor or blow up a school, the crime is already committed.

                  Carrying out the act itself would be an additional crime and carry additional penalties.

                  Since slavery is now illegal in the US and women have the right to vote, consider lobbying your congressman for reduction of threat charges to 8 year olds on school grounds from a felony to a misdemeanor.

                  (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
    • surferdude says:

      And if something negative occurred… would the authorities have been “overzealous attitude” NOT!

      (-1) 7 Total Votes - 3 up - 4 down
    • horse_soldier says:

      Two week “vacation”?
      Ask the kids, teachers and parents who were displaced by the actions of an attention seeking teenager if those two weeks were a vacation. I’d bet not.
      This young man wreaked havoc on a great number of innocent people, many of them young children.
      Makes me wonder what the h€ll was going on in his home that he’d do such a thing.
      Something is very wrong in this young man’s life.

      (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
    • smile4thecamera says:

      The two week vacation you refer to was two weeks of kids being bussed all over town to attend other schools.

      (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
  4. smile4thecamera says:

    It will take a long time to pay off that restitution, but I’m glad he will be accountable for his “ill-conceived prank.” not.

    (19) 21 Total Votes - 20 up - 1 down
    • doglover says:

      Who are you kidding?
      If these parents are willing to “get him off for his stupidity” Do you really think they will make their SON pay for the restitution?
      Do not fool yourself. Kids today are so spoiled.

      They probably have not even taken away his car and cell phone!

      (3) 29 Total Votes - 16 up - 13 down
      • achillesheal says:

        They can’t do the one year sentence for him and hopefully he will be paying them back for years to come as they’ll probably have to mortgage their home to pay the restitution.

        I wonder if the felonies get expunged from his record because he was a minor. Probably will in time. Lucky for him he hadn’t had his 18th birthday.

        (3) 11 Total Votes - 7 up - 4 down
    • surferdude says:

      This was not an innocent prank. This was a criminal act!

      And how many lives did he affect by his actions?

      (0) 14 Total Votes - 7 up - 7 down
  5. doglover says:

    Interesting to read about this Sept 11 crime today – April 20th – the day of the Columbine School massacre.

    Violence at school is SERIOUS!
    Let Mom and Dad pay for not PAYING ATTENTION to their teen!
    And let them hang out with him also.

    (18) 30 Total Votes - 24 up - 6 down
  6. achillesheal says:

    Hey dad, outside of your home big boy actions result in big boy consequences

    (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down

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