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Three men wanted after school break-in

Brooke Boyer, Editor-in-chief

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The investigation into the burglary and property damage of the interior of the school is currently ongoing.
According to Principal Mark Meyer, the school was broken into around 1:30am on Sunday, Feb. 26. Video retrieved from the school’s security system shows three male suspects approximately between the ages of 18-25. Meyer believes that the three men entered through a perimeter door.
A couple of teachers noticed the damages on Sunday in the early afternoon. They immediately notified Meyer and Assistant Principal John Duncanson who contacted the police at 12:03 p.m.
“There was a large amount of surprise because it’s not something you anticipate happening in a school environment,” Meyer said.
He said he has seen the community react in a variety of ways; from anger to disbelief. Some of the USD 231 Elementary schools have shown their support by sending signed posters from the kids. Meyer describes it as a “unifying incident” even though it is an unfortunate situation.
Most of what was discovered in terms of physical damage was broken glass and holes in the sheet rock.
The main office and kitchen received the most amount of damage. Many classrooms were also targeted, but there has been no obvious pattern to the rooms that were hit.
Meyer suspects the men targeted rooms that were simply the most convenient. He says the damage is extensive enough to be considered a felony, but he does not know what charges will be pressed.
According to a Gardner Police report it is unknown at this time the dollar amount associated with the damages. The Gardner Police Department and Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigators are processing the crime scene and working with the high school staff to determine the full extent of the damage and any loss of property that may have occurred.
As the day went on Sunday, it became apparent that the crime scene investigators would not be done collecting evidence to get the place cleaned up and safe for students by Monday. This caused the school board to make a last minute decision to cancel school on Monday, Feb. 27.
On Monday, only staff were allowed inside the building. Investigators needed the staff’s help to look for potential evidence. Since police were unaware of what was in each teacher’s room before the break-in, they needed assistance from the staff to report what, if anything, was missing from their classroom. By noon Monday the school was declared clean and safe for students.
“We all consider this place to be a home away from home and it almost feels like they’ve attacked you even though they haven’t. It’s just property. Property is replaceable. People aren’t,” Meyer said.
A company came out on Monday and re-keyed the entire facility in order to prevent future break-ins. The school is in the process of replacing the glass and walls that were damaged. From here on out the school intends to leave more lights on so that if it were to happen again, the suspect(s) would be easier to identify.
“Right now we have temporary fixes like boards on the windows,” SRO Scott Hofer said. “The school will go through their insurance company to get things fixed as soon as they can.”
The motive of the break-in has not been determined. Hofer suggests that the men were possibly looking to steal items and disrupt school.
“I believe there are only three people who know what the motive was and they have not been identified yet,” Meyer said.
Local residents on Facebook have suggested the possibility of the situation being a senior prank. Meyer shot down the preposition immediately responding that there is obviously no prank involved when the intentions were to cause damage.
“The one thing we don’t want people to feel is unsafe, this is a very random incident,” Meyer said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
The entire investigation has been turned over to law enforcement. Many people have called in with possible names and clues based off of a few press release videos. Hofer admits that they currently have people of interest, but he cannot release any additional information at this time.
According to a Facebook post from the Gardner Police Department, one of the suspects left traces of blood on one of the windows. Police believe it was probably an injury to the hand or forearm from breaking a window and that the injury should still be visible on the suspect.
If anyone has any information at all that may seem helpful, they are to contact the Gardner police department (913-856- 7312) or the TIPS hotline number (816-474- TIPS (8477)). Any information leading in an arrest can have a reward up to $2,000.
“If the student is here [at school] they can come to me. If they are at home they can call the police or tips hotline,” Hofer said.

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