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.
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 www.bcso.com. “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.”
TO GET INVOLVED
Community members who would like to assist with
Porter Elementary’s repairs can visit https://www. gofundme.com/
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