Audio of an emergency phone call from High Desert Middle School, after a child sex offender got into the building during school hours, was released Friday.
Thomas Lee Bear was convicted of sex crimes against children in 2013 and in Deschutes County in 2020.
He went to High Desert Middle School in Bend on Tuesday morning.
“We just had a stranger come in our building and ask to use the restroom. He’s safe. He’s outside the building now but seems like there’s some mental health or physical health issues,” the assistant principal said on the call.
The call was placed while Bear was outside the building in the bus area. The assistant principal, who was making the call, said the school nurse was attempting to engage with Bear. That was after Bear had already been inside to use a bathroom located beyond a secure door.
“He entered our bathroom and then came out panting, covered in water. So that’s why I thought maybe he had a health issue, like he’s dehydrated or overheated of some sort. But he’s communicative but won’t answer many of our questions (inaudible) what need help? What do you need?” the caller said.
The Bend-La Pine School District has not said how Bear was able to get past a secure door. It did acknowledge that safety protocols were not followed and it is investigating.
A call to police was placed at 10:41 a.m., Bend Police spokesperson Sheila Miller said Wednesday. 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.
The district said parents were sent an alert that the school went into SECURE at 10:40 a.m. — which prevents anyone from entering or exiting the building. It was lifted at 11:15 a.m. when police said they had a suspect in custody.
Bear was convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old on the Umatilla Reservation in 2013.
In 2020, he was charged in Deschutes County with four counts of second degree sexual abuse, two counts of third degree sexual abuse and one count of criminal trespass for an incident involving a girl 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.