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Reward offered in Porter vandalism

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:19 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:19 AM ]
Blount County authorities and school officials have teamed up to offer a $1,250 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals who hit Porter Elementary School. Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong and Blount County Schools Director Rob Britt announced $1,000 of the reward in a news release issued Wednesday.

Board Chairman Trevis Gardner said Wednesday night that he is pledging to add $250 of his personal money to the reward. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the community’s united response, and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office is working hard to break the lead. Our community was rocked by this crime and many people wronged,” Gardner said. “I suppose that I feel helpless that I can’t do more, and this is a small gesture to making it right. It is the responsibility of leadership to do what they can to find who is responsible and let justice take its course.” Gardner encouraged anybody else who wants to pledge money to the reward to contact the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.

Anyone with any information about the incident, which occurred last Friday, is asked to call the Blount County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Unit during normal business hours at 865-273-5001 or the 24-Hour Crime Hotline at 865-273-5200. Individuals may also leave a tip on the Sheriff’s Office Text-a-Tip link at “Somebody is out there who knows who did this,” Britt said. “We need them to come forward, so we can hold whoever did this responsible.” As of Wednesday night, Porter Elementary had reported $6,000 worth of damaged or stolen classroom items. It has reported a number of stolen iPads and laptops. Two projectors, one computer monitor and one flatscreen TV were damaged. A number of Apple TVs were additionally damaged or stolen. The district is still collecting overtime for custodial and maintenance repairs. Crews mobilized Dec. 11, in addition to the total cost for repairing all the damaged glass. It hopes to have those numbers in the near future.

Last Friday, the culprits broke a glass window near the kitchen’s back door and entered the building. They broke into a freezer behind the kitchen, damaged a cash register and destroyed glass doors atop a display freezer that holds ice cream. It isn’t known yet how much food product was discarded and reordered. They further loaded items — including gourmet coffee creamer, ice pops and shredded cheddar cheese — into a garbage can that was discovered outside the computer lab near the building’s entrance. Two printers were discovered next to the can. They also broke into the clinic, computer lab, front office, library and principal’s office. They beat out a door knob to gain access to Smith’s closet, rifled through his desk drawers, and rummaged through a shipment that arrived Thursday and was stored in the front office. They broke two Christmas decorations in the library, discarded a piece of computer equipment in the lab and ransacked the clinic. No prescription medication was reported stolen. Considerable damage was reported in the upstairs classrooms where the perpetrators beat out nearly all of the classroom doors’ glass panels.

Of the 13 rooms upstairs, 10 rooms had broken glass panels. The vandals also appeared in two upstairs classrooms to have hit one computer and one television with a hammer. They also kicked out the metal in one teacher’s closet door and rummaged through five teacher work areas. In the downstairs classroom wing, property damage wasn’t as severe. The wrongdoers broke out the glass in two classroom doors, destroyed a decoration in the music room and discarded a number of candy bars near the counselor’s office. Officials also reported at least one location in this wing where someone defecated and another location where someone urinated. They said it appeared that someone leaned outside a classroom window and defecated. ‘BARBAROUS ACT’ As a result of the breakin and vandalism, Blount County Schools closed Porter Elementary Friday for repairs and cleanup and reopened Monday. Custodians started cleaning up glass and sanitizing work areas Friday afternoon.

Maintenance employees also started changing locks to every exterior door, because at least two sets of employee keys were missing. Staff worked all day Saturday to get ready for Monday’s classes. Maintenance employees also completed changing locks. A group of 10 parents and students reported Sunday with brooms and dustpans, cleaning supplies and shop vacuums to fully clean the building, said Principal Jared Smith, in a Monday interview with The Daily Times. They spent about five hours “going over everything with a fine tooth comb.” The Sheriff’s Office said its Criminal Investigations Unit is continuing to follow up on leads as they come in. Berrong said in the release that those responsible will be found. “The community is outraged over this senseless destruction,” Berrong said in the release. “The individuals who perpetrated this will be held accountable for their actions. Right now, there are individuals out there who think they have gotten away with a barbarous act. They have not. We are committed to locating and arresting them for their actions.”

Community members who would like to assist with Porter Elementary’s repairs can visit https://www. r3egkaa4. All proceeds will be dispersed to the Booster Club and will help fund items that aren’t covered by insurance. The Booster Club has established another account: https:// www.gofundme. com/3tezf5pk. It hopes to raise $30,000.

By Matthew Stewart and Wes Wade-The Daily Times