It was December of last year when the former principal of Los Gatos High School got the first concerning email about Shannon O’Connor, the school mom who, 10 months later, would be hit with 39 criminal charges tied to allegations she hosted drunken parties for young teens where she encouraged and watched sex acts among the kids.
“[My daughter] told me a mom at school named Shannon Bruga buys alcohol for teenagers if they send her their order,” the concerned parent wrote then-principal Paul Robinson after finding a text message on her daughter’s phone about an alcohol order for a Halloween party.
O’Connor also went by Shannon Bruga, which is how parents refer to her in their emails.
The email is among a trove of messages unearthed by NBC Bay Area between Los Gatos High School parents and school staff concerning the woman who allegedly preyed on local teens for more than a year.
They show that within five hours of receiving that first complaint, the former Los Gatos High principal forwarded the email to a Los Gatos police officer assigned to the school.
“I don’t know if LGMSPD (Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department) is interested in talking with the mother about this, but I wanted you to see she is more than willing to help,” Principal Paul Robinson wrote the officer. “So sad. Thanks”
In the months that followed, the records show concerned parents continued to report potentially criminal behavior by O’Connor to police and school authorities, providing dates, names, and detailed accounts of parties their children attended.
In February 2021, a parent alerted the school they’d filed a police report alleging O’Connor was “procuring [freshman girls] for her son and his friends (mostly LGHS football players) and providing parties at her home involving alcohol and sexual activity.”
“We have many photos of these kids at [O’Connor’s] home, drinking, passed out, in bed (with what looks like no clothing),” the parent wrote the school, adding she’d been in contact with numerous other parents who shared her concerns.
Despite the initial warnings dating back to at least December 2020, it would take another 10 months for O’Connor to be arrested. When that finally happened in October of this year, police found 10 underage boys and two underage girls in the Idaho home where O’Connor was staying.
As the months ticked by following the initial police report concerning O'Connor, the mom committed more than a dozen more criminal acts, according to prosecutors, including sexual battery and felony child endangerment.
The emails show parents’ frustration with the school and police began to mount as early as February 2021.
“She has faced 0 consequences from LGHS, the local police, child protective services, etc,” a frustrated parent wrote school officials.
“This has gone on too long, and too many children have been hurt; not just my 14 [year old] girl. Please take this seriously and take action. We need to protect these kids.”
In a written statement, a spokesperson for the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department said the department did take the case seriously.
“The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department takes these allegations and investigations very seriously,” the spokesperson wrote. “As a part of our investigative process during this case, Detectives actively pursued available investigative leads, collected evidence, and obtained additional disclosure statements by witnesses and victims. This information was important to the corroboration of facts and filing of criminal charges against Ms. O’Connor. The department collaborated with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office throughout this investigation.”
District superintendent Mike Grove said Thursday he understands parents’ frustrations but that the school did the right thing by immediately notifying police.
“When informed of the unconfirmed allegations, the District informed local law enforcement as they have both the authority and expertise to determine if crimes had been committed,” Grove said in a statement. “Although I can understand community frustration, it is important that the community know that, by contacting law enforcement, the District demonstrated its understanding that the allegations required an immediate elevation. The Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District will never hesitate to report issues to our local police departments in an effort to protect our students.”
Rachael Frost, a 20-year law enforcement veteran who now trains schools on how to protect students, said these cases can be complicated.
“I think at first blush it’s very difficult to maybe understand why this case took so long,” Frost said. “You have to have evidence, you can’t just take it on any individual complainant’s word that this is what occurred.”
She added that reluctant witnesses can also be a problem.
“You have a lot of teenagers who may not have wanted to dime off the person who’s providing them the opportunity to drink, the opportunity to hang out.”
O’Connor remains in custody following her October 2021 arrest. Neither she nor her attorney have responded to interview requests from NBC Bay Area. She’s expected to enter a plea at her next court hearing in two weeks.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area. To contact her about this story or another, email firstname.lastname@example.org.