Three former Youngsville High School students have been arrested and accused of extensive vandalism of their alma mater.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, Duston Allen Miller, 19, of Poplar Street, Youngsville, Tylor Ray Keyes, 18, of Eldred Center Road, Grand Valley, and Derek Alan Gifford, 20, of Greensburg, each face nine felonies and two other charges.
The charges include two counts of burglary, two counts of criminal mischief, five counts of criminal conspiracy, and criminal trespass and theft by unlawful taking.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
At least one Youngsville High School computer was hit by both chemical and carbon dioxide fire extinguishers. State police gave an initial “conservative” estimate of damages at $50,000.
The suspects were arraigned before District Justice Laura Bauer and taken to Warren County jail after failing to post $50,000 bail each.
Police said the vandalism caused at least $50,000 in damages to the building and press box of the adjacent football field at about 6:15 a.m. Sunday.
"A total will be determined at a later date after all damage has been assessed by the Warren County School District," police said.
"The scope is yet to be determined," WCSD Quality Assurance Supervisor Boyd Freeborough said.
Police and district officials said the vandals started at the press box, spray painting crude messages and images inside and outside.
The perpetrators set off a fire extinguisher inside the small building, leaving a layer of chemical dust on all of the surfaces and equipment inside.
They also threw items onto the football field and knocked out at least one window from the press box.
A video recording shows three people walking from the area of the football field to the high school building.
Officials said the vandals broke a basement window and gained access to the building that way after failing to enter through doors at the back of the building.
Video shows the vandals throughout the school over a span of almost one hour. A copy of all video evidence was provided to state police.
Inside, the perpetrators moved through almost every area of the building - from the main office to the gym and wrestling room, the basement and crawl space to the second floor - setting off fire extinguishers and spray painting items from lockers and desks to electronics. The vandals even painted in a catwalk area above the auditorium. Many of the instances of graffiti include crude images. Others include words, and apparently, initials. For example, in one area, letters matching the initials of all three of the suspects appear. The painted letters D.K. appear next to "Class of 2011."
The numbers "2011" and "2012" were painted in many rooms and hallways.
The vandals used red, white, and black paint.
"They skipped some rooms," Freeborough said. Others were locked and escaped the vandalism.
"They got the majority of the fire extinguishers in the building," he said. A layer of yellowish dust covered the floor in much of the building - "every horizontal surface."
The mess is only part of the problem with the fire extinguisher material.
"Part of the issue is the chemical in the fire extinguishers is corrosive," Freeborough said.
Computers in some rooms were blasted directly by extinguishers and are assumed lost. The vandals sprayed paint on the screens of every computer monitor in one lab and on two smartboards - valued at $1,500 each - in the building. While those are certainly unusable, there are hundreds of computers and monitors in the building and much of that equipment could be lost to the corrosive chemicals.
"Floating particles" of the chemical have or will land on just about every piece of electronic equipment in the building, assistant principal Philip Knapp said. "We're going to have to scrub down the entire building."
"I was here an hour after the event and there were still clouds" of the chemical, Freeborough said.
Walking through the halls was enough to float extinguisher material into the air Monday morning.
The building's fire detection system will also have to be cleaned of the chemical and recertified, Freeborough said.
The building has had several visitors since Sunday morning.
A state police trooper from the Warren barracks was on scene most of the day Sunday. Officers from the state police forensic unit out of Erie also investigated the vandalism.
The vandals left empty paint cans and other items the police will conduct tests on.
District technology officials checked computer equipment Monday.
"We have a restoration company coming in for an estimate," Freeborough said.
The district will rely on contracted services to affect the cleanup.
"Our insurance agent was down this morning," he said Monday.
The district has a deductible and a major claim like the one at Youngsville could result in increased premiums.
Freeborough said the district will attempt to recoup money from those responsible.
"It's unfortunate," Freeborough said.