"I thought I was going to a duck-and-cover earthquake class, and instead it was all about lockdowns. Never ever did I think I'd need to use those lessons," she said.
But when she saw plain-clothes detectives with guns outside her gate, she approached Butler and told her "this is not a good time, you need to come back" because parents were arriving to pick up their children.
"(Butler) seemed as if she was trying to get the guy to come to the front door," Saffren said. "It was an intense situation. They had their hands on their guns."
Butler explained they were involved in an investigation, and asked Saffren to take children inside and contact a police dispatcher. "I had already decided on a safe room, I knew what to do," said Saffren, who gathered her 14 young charges together.
Saffren heard a couple of shots, "pop, pop, pop," as the detectives were shot just outside her preschool's gate.
Saffren said a staff member had raised concerns about Goulet staring into their campus from his bicycle outside the school gate a few days earlier, and they held a staff meeting to discuss safety and reinforce the importance of calling 911 if there were any concerns.
Saffren said she followed up after the meeting, calling police to say she had found hypodermic needles and condoms in the parking lot, and that she wanted police to be aware that there were some potential problems in the area.
To some, the attacks made them remember Santa Cruz's dangerous days. Sentinel editor Don Miller wrote the "present darkness" is not something altogether new, noting that in the early 1970s and 80s, the city "was the scene of grisly and demented mass murders."
Among the killers was one who was convicted of 10 murders after saying he heard "die songs," messages to commit human sacrifices to prevent earthquakes, and another, dubbed the "co-ed killer," who was convicted for murdering eight women, including his mother.
County Supervisor Neal Coonerty, who moved to Santa Cruz in the 70s, said Thursday that back then and today, there is no reasonable explanation for such shocking crimes.
"It's a pretty natural reaction that when random violent crime happens, that people try to find some kind of logical explanation, some causation," Coonerty said. "They don't want to accept the fact that it was random."
This week's violence "is not reflective of Santa Cruz," he said. "It's more a fact that we had had evil visited upon us."