LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police in Southern California have arrested a high school teacher accused of abducting three students at knife-point and ordering them to drive him to a fast-food outlet, authorities said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said John Edward Maust, 34, turned himself in and was arrested on charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment and making criminal threats following the incident on Saturday night in the Los Angeles suburb of Altadena.
In a statement released on Sunday, the Sheriff’s Department said the three 17-year-olds spotted their teacher standing on a sidewalk. He seemed intoxicated when they stopped to say hello, police said, but they agreed when he asked for them for a lift.
Something Maust said during the ride caused the driver to pull over and the three teenagers to get out of the car, the statement said.
"The teacher said he wanted to go to Jack in the Box, and ordered the juveniles back into the car. Fearing for their well-being, the juveniles re-entered the car," it said. "It was at this time the teacher then pulled out a knife on them."
One of the teens was able to call 911 during the ordeal, it added, and when Maust spotted a police helicopter, he ordered the driver to stop the car and then fled on foot.
On Sunday afternoon, he walked into the Altadena sheriff’s station and surrendered without incident, the police statement said.
Philip Clarke, president of Maust's employer, Arroyo Pacific Academy in Arcadia, said on Monday he was immensely saddened by the news and had been in contact with the parents of one of the students involved.
"Mr. Maust has been a long-term, well-respected member of our faculty. Our hearts and prayers go to him and his family as he deals with this situation in his life," Clarke said in a statement on the school's website.
"We contacted Mr. Maust and advised him that he is on indefinite administrative leave ... We have no comment to make on the investigation."
Maust is being held on $100,000 bail, the sheriff's department said.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)