Dylan Thoele arrested for child luring on the Ventura High School Campus

Students and staff give their first-hand accounts

Video footage from the Nov. 23 incident. Thoele currently has a $500,000 bail according to venturasheriff.org. Video by: VHS teacher Wendy Lawton

Intruder Dylan Thoele made his way onto the Ventura High School campus three separate times in the span of a month-long period (Nov. 16- Dec. 8) to approached students. In an interview with VHS teacher Craig Carey and VHS assistant principal Mera Clobes on Dec. 1 2021, Clobes said, “he had no affiliation to this campus.” Carey clarified, “they [the intruder] claimed to be a substitute teacher when I asked to talk to them. We are not able to produce any form ID. He [the intruder] gave lot’s of different stories. Depending on who had asked him what he was doing there [VHS campus]. He said I’m a student, I’m somebody’s boyfriend and I’m a substitute teacher. All of which are untrue.” 

On  Dec. 8, Thoele was arrested for felony child luring with intent to commit sexual acts according to KTLA. These charges were brought forward after an investigation following his several attempts at engaging in conversation over the three incidents. Thoele has been identified as a 29 year old Ventura resident. He was involved in a family harassment lawsuit in Dec. 2020 and had a restraining order against him, but it was later dismissed.

During the time that the intruder was on campus, no lockdown was called. When asked why, Clobes took a long pause before answering, “That’s a good question. He didn’t present as a physical threat. Had he presented a weapon I would have called that lockdown immediately. He was not a physical threat and we had him very quickly both times.” 

VHS students are taking action by posting and reposting warnings on their social media accounts in order to protect their friends from the intruder. Photo by: Rowan Muñoz

Clobes gave a detailed account of what happened on Nov. 23. “I entered campus about 7:15 in the morning and as I was walking up to the office door, I passed him by…Then immediately saw the campus security trailing him.” Clobes had a bad feeling about the man, she said, “They [campus office workers] had called the police. This man was approaching young ladies… Campus supervisors followed him as he left campus and I also followed.”

It is important to note that at 7:15 a.m school is not officially in session. First period at VHS starts at 7:36 a.m. While class is not in session, it is normal for students to be arriving on campus during the time the intruder first entered the campus.

Senior Elise Sisk had an encounter with the intruder in the morning of Nov. 23. Sisk said, “A man approached me and my sister and mumbled something at us. All I could understand was him asking us if we were free this weekend and I hustled us away from him.” If a student has an interaction with a campus intruder Sisk advises students to, “Get out if it as soon as possible, just avoid any interaction and stay safe.” 

Freshman Madison Sisk, sister of Elise Sisk, said, “It was pretty obvious he was not a high school student so I was kind of weirded out he was mumbling something about us being free this weekend for a school project. I kept walking into the band room later, when I was on my way to my math class. I saw him talking to some other girls and following them around, probably doing the same thing. I left because my math class wasn’t open yet, later when I went back after the bell rang he was gone.”

Carey informed The Cougar Press that the intruder returned after leaving the first time during break. Carey said, “I was posted up here [in the 50s and 60s wing] and some students noticed there was a guy on campus who did not belong. They were super perceptive and alert about it. They came directly to me to let me know, which is exactly what they should be doing… So I notified admin that I was about to engage. And escorted him from the premises.” Carey continued, “I made a point that he understood he was being directed in a specific direction and any strain from the direction that indicated was not an option…He did try to jump the fence at one point and I did physically prevent him from doing so.”

Freshman Madison Sisk said, “It made me feel uncomfortable [the intruder], especially when I saw him going up to other girls.” Graphic by: Alejandro Hernandez.

Sophomore Rayanna Owens Lopez, had an interaction with the intruder the second time he was on campus, during nutrition break. Break on regular days are from 10:35-10:50 a.m. She accounts her interaction with the intruder stating, “I first made strange eye contact with the guy then once he noticed I saw him he walked over to me and my friend, Julie Munoz.” The intruder spoke to the sophomores. Lopez said, “He started to tell me that he was a new student and just trying to fit in.” This immediately raised red flags in Lopez’s mind. The intruder went on to tell her that his name is Daniel. However, we are unable to clarify this. Lopez explains, “When he was talking to me I felt very uncomfortable because I knew this guy wasn’t a high schooler.” Lopez further stated, “He was clearly a grown man trying to talk to high school girls.”

Child luring is defined as the effort to convince minors to engage in sexual activity. Photo taken from the Ventura Police Department on Facebook.

Senior Avery Kightlinger also had an encounter with Thoele shortly before he was arrested. She said, “So, this morning [Dec. 8], I was strutting the halls from second to third period and I always stop and converse amongst my companions, and at this particular point in time, I saw this guy who I don’t usually see in the halls and I didn’t think much of it. Right? And then, my friend, Tiernan Philips pointed out to me that it could potentially be the creepy guy that has been loitering around campus and so I took a better look and I realized, Oh my gosh, wait, this is that guy. He fit all the descriptions. He just looked a lot older and he looked like he was trying to fit in with the high school students, but it wasn’t working. He had a beard and he was wearing a hat. As soon as I realized it, I told Greta [Kightlinger’s friend] and I whispered to her, ‘I have to get to class, you should probably get to class too,’ because I didn’t want to directly say it out loud in case he heard. So yeah, then I scurried off to class and that was the end of it.” Kightlinger went on to make a statement to the administration regarding the encounter.

Thoele was arrested due to the school working as a community. Again, administration encourages students and staff to report any suspicious activity. They are also encouraged to seek support from counselors and administrators if needed.