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Vandals hit W.Va. school

February 15, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.VA. - Computers and windows were smashed, desks were flipped, pictures were ripped off walls and file cabinets were dumped of their contents during an early morning break-in Sunday at Jefferson High School, which resulted in more than $25,000 damage, police said Monday.

In an ROTC classroom, wood and steel replicas of rifles which are used in parades were taken out of the room and used to break windows in the administration office and in the main hallway of the school, said Detective Shawn Bonifant of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

In the ROTC classroom, the assailants "basically destroyed anything they could get their hands on," Bonifant said.

"It is substantial," Bonifant said as he tried to describe the extent of the damage.

Bonifant said he has suspects.

A surveillance camera in the school caught some people on film, but Bonifant would not go into detail about what was observed through the camera.

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Bonifant said he believes more than one person was involved in the break-in.

School officials did not mention any past trouble at the school or any possible motives for the destruction, Bonifant said.

"I'm still conducting interviews to try to obtain more information," Bonifant said Monday afternoon.

The incident came after a trash can was set on fire in a boys bathroom at the school on Feb. 3, although Bonifant said there was no connection between the fire and Sunday's break-in.

An investigation into the fire was continuing, Bonifant said.

Sunday's destruction of property occurred after three portable classrooms and a main section of the high school were broken into, Bonifant said.

The school was entered at about 4 a.m., although it was unclear when the portable classrooms were entered, Bonifant said.

Bonifant said "multiple computers" in the portable classrooms were either damaged or destroyed and furniture such as chairs and tables were thrown around. In the ROTC classroom, a door was torn off a small refrigerator, Bonifant said.

In another portable classroom, it appeared that a Bunsen burner was thrown at a television screen, Bonifant said.

The portable classrooms might have been entered by smashing windows on the doors to the rooms, Bonifant said.

Police believe the ROTC replica rifles were used to break windows up and down the main hallway of the school. Since some of the ROTC property is U.S. government property, the case could involve federal prosecutions, Bonifant said.

"This is serious business," said Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols, who said he believes the acts were the result of anger directed at a class or a teacher.

Although Bonifant did not know how many windows were broken, he said more than $5,000 in damage was caused to windows.

In the A section of the school, someone sprayed the contents of a fire extinguisher, Bonifant said.

Jefferson County Schools officials are offering a $500 reward to any student offering information that leads to a conviction, Bonifant said. Anyone with information about the break-in can call Bonifant at 304-728-3205.

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