Third Student Alleges Inappropriate Behavior by Fortuna Math Teacher


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Gary Landergen's jail booking photo. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Gary Landergen's jail booking photo.
Another Fortuna High School student has come forward to make allegations against the math teacher arrested Wednesday on suspicion of sexually assaulting two students.

Gary Landergen, who’d returned to Fortuna High School this year, where he’d previously taught in the 1990s before leaving for Argonaut High School in Amador County, was arrested on a Ramey warrant Wednesday after “at least two students” came forward to report they had been the victim of “inappropriate and unwelcome groping and/or fondling by Landergen,” according to a press release. Fortuna police detectives have also located witnesses who independently “observed some of the alleged misconduct,” according to the release.

Fortuna Police Chief Casey Day told the Journal a third student came forward to police late Thursday and recounted “multiple conversations" the student found uncomfortable and inappropriate.

“They were conversations that related to specific body parts and specific outfits,” Day said, adding that police are not “referring to the student as a victim as of yet” and the investigation remains very much active.

Day said Fortuna police first received word of the allegations against Landergen late Tuesday afternoon, when one a parent called to allege Landergen had groped their child. Day said detectives worked quickly to try to corroborate the allegation, soon finding another alleged victim and independent witnesses. Day said police then sought a Ramey warrant for Landergen’s arrest in an effort to bring him into custody quickly, Day said, adding that the warrant was executed Wednesday afternoon soon after it was signed by a Humboldt County Superior Court Judge.

Landergen was booked into the Humboldt County jail on suspicion of molesting a minor and sexual battery, and was released after posting bail. Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming said a charging decision in the case has not yet been made, as her office is still working to review the police report it received Friday in the case. Fleming said Landergen was given an arraignment date of May 25 in the case when he posted bail and was released from custody.

The Fortuna Union High School District sent out an automated call to parents at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday notifying them a teacher had been arrested. But the call did not identify the teacher or the nature of the allegations against him — only saying he’d been arrested for “inappropriate behavior” — and came some 20 hours after police took Landergen into custody, which some parents felt was an inadequate response. Parents of children on the track and field team, for which Landergen is a coach, said they were frustrated not to receive additional outreach, with one noting they “should have been made aware of it long before it hit social media” and that after learning of the news, they had to wait almost a full day to speak with their child about it.

Calls and an email placed to Fortuna Union School District Superintendent Glen Senestraro seeking comment on the situation were not returned.

According the FPD press release, Landergen was placed on administrative leave by the district “just prior to his arrest.” Day said the district has been fully cooperative and collaborative with the investigation from the beginning.

Landergen agreed to be interviewed by officers during the investigation, Day said, though he declined to release details of Landergen’s statements “due to the ongoing investigation.”

Day said the investigation remains very active, with detectives working to find any other potential victims, adding he directed them to reach out to Argonaut High School officials Wednesday morning in addition to local efforts. (Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe told the Ledger Dispatch his office had “no record of any alleged criminal activity by Landergen while in Amador” County.)

“The Fortuna Police Department remains extremely dedicated to working quickly but also conducting quality investigations, especially with issues of this magnitude,” Day said. “The safety of our public, our children and our students is paramount.”

Day said the Fortuna Police Department is continuing to seek assistance in identifying any other potential victims, urging victims and their families to come forward with any information and to immediately contact school administrators and the police department.


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