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Police investigate suspicious

Aspen Times Staff Report

Aspen police are moving ahead with an investigation into the recent vandalism at Aspen High School.

A group of unidentified vandals broke into the school on the night of Oct. 5, smashing windows and generally tearing up parts of the building in what some believe was an effort to disrupt the school’s homecoming celebrations.

Students reported seeing some suspicious high-school-aged young men hanging around the school on Friday, and the police have been given the youths’ descriptions. Some in the group tried to steal students’ backpacks, according to police, and an investigation into the identity of those youths is continuing this week. Police said Sunday that they don’t yet have any information directly linking the youths that were seen to the vandalism.

Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff George Kremer said deputies were called to the school at 6 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 6, where he and Dep. Joe Bauer found three of the large windows outside the student commons area broken out.

In other parts of the school, classroom windows were smashed and fire extinguishers had been emptied on a variety of surfaces, including several senior class pictures that were left lying on the floor in the commons area.

Kremer said evidence indicates that at least two people were involved, noting that the windows were broken out by hurled extinguishers, “dumbbell” weights and rocks.

He said an “earwitness” is believed to have heard the breaking glass from his nearby house, but ignored it in the belief that it was a bear thrashing around in a Dumpster.

Aspen School District Superintendent Tom Farrell said that both he and AHS Principal Kendall Evans met with students on Friday and are working with police to come up with a list of suspects.

Among other methods of trying to learn the vandals’ identities, Farrell said, the school district will be offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to their arrest and conviction.

“We have some pretty good leads, though, I think,” Farrell said. “It’s a good sign when the kids are upset, and the kids are pretty upset. I think they’re upset enough they’ll come forth.”

He said there is no damage estimate available yet, and that he was happy that the damage was limited to windows and the use of fire extinguishers.

“It’s very unusual,” he noted. “They didn’t take anything at all,” despite the fact that the school is filled with valuable equipment.

Farrell also noted that last weekend was the annual homecoming celebration, and that he felt there must be some connection between the celebration and the vandalism.

For instance, he said, Friday was field day, when the students get to spend the day in social and sporting games such as egg tosses, soccer, dress-up contests, Hula-Hoop competitions and other goofy activities, and class work is at low ebb.

“I think so,” Farrell said when asked if he thought there was a potential connection. “Whoever did it obviously knew this was a big day for the kids. I would be absolutely floored if it was one of our own current students.”

He said there were only a dozen or so AHS students absent on Friday, and noted that, late in the day, students and teachers reported seeing some unknown young men hanging around the school campus.

Farrell said the youths, who were not from AHS, tried at one point to steal some local students’ backpacks but were chased off. He said the license number of the car they were driving has been given to police.

But despite the mess at the school, Farrell said, “The kids did not let that dampen their spirits. They had the best field day ever. I talked to the kids at an assembly, and I told them I was impressed.”


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