A man with a history of convictions including child sex crimes in Deschutes County made his way inside High Desert Middle School in Bend Tuesday morning. The Bend-La Pine School District confirmed that safety protocols were not followed.
“Yes, he was inside the building,” Bend Police spokesperson Sheila Miller told Central Oregon Daily News Wednesday.
Miller said the man, identified as 40-year-old Thomas Lee Bear, came to the school asking to use the bathroom. Miller said he got inside, used the restroom and left with water on his face and panting.
Dispatch calls indicate Bear then ended up near the bus entrance outside.
A call to police was placed at 10:41 a.m., Miller said. A Deschutes County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived a minute later, followed by a Bend Police officer at 10:48.
Bear was found near Knott Road and was in custody by 11:00 a.m.
RELATED: Bend police arrest man near school; Was on parole for child sex crimes
District says safety protocols weren’t followed
Bend-La Pine Superintendent Steven Cook emailed a letter to parents Wednesday confirming that safety protocols were not followed. Cook wrote that Bear made it past the secure lobby area without a mandatory check-in to use the restroom.
He said Bear had no contact with children.
“The event at High Desert Middle School yesterday is unacceptable and not indicative of our culture and commitment to safety in our schools,” Cook wrote, saying there would be an investigation into what happened. “We take the safety of our students and our staff seriously. Unfettered entry by the public into our schools is not acceptable, violates our policies, and puts our school community at risk.”
Cook said that district protocol is that all visitors report directly to the school’s main office to get permission to visit. They must sign in and out. The system is also supposed to tell staff if someone is present who is on the national sex offender registry.
Cook did not state in the letter that Bear had been convicted of child sex crimes.
High Desert Middle School parents were sent an alert Tuesday that the school went into SECURE at 10:40 a.m. due to a suspicious person in the area. It was lifted at 11:15 a.m. when police said they had a suspect in custody.
The school said SECURE is when all students are brought inside and exterior doors are locked. No one is allowed in or out when the school is in SECURE.
Bear’s criminal history
Bear was charged with four counts of second degree sexual abuse, two counts of third degree sexual abuse and one count of criminal trespass for an incident in February 2020. The crimes involved a girl who was under the age of 18.
He pleaded guilty in April of that year to one count of second degree sexual abuse and one count of third degree sexual abuse, while the other charges were dismissed. Bear was sentenced to two years in prison.
Bear signed a document confirming that, upon release, he would have no contact with the victim in his case and no contact with minors. He also had a no-bail federal warrant from the U.S. Marshals, police said.