School vandalism probe focuses on gangs

Dec. 16, 2013 @ 10:12 PM

In addition to Northern Vance High School, similar graffiti was also found on Friday at Eaton-Johnson Middle School and an old flea market building.

Maj. Joseph Ferguson confirmed the Vance County Sheriff’s Office remains in pursuit of criminal charges, the Henderson Police Department is also involved in the probe and investigators believe all are gang-related.

“We think that it is the same group that tagged both locations in the county,” Ferguson said.

As for the finding at Eaton-Johnson, Ferguson said, “We believe it is the same group there also, but these are possibly different individuals at each place.”

Northern Vance is located at 293 Warrenton Road, on the northern-most end of Henderson. Eaton-Johnson is at 500 North Beckford Drive, a few blocks north of Henderson’s downtown. The flea market building is at 2726 Raleigh Road, more on the southern end of Henderson. All of the markings had been reported by Friday afternoon.

Lt. Alan Hedgepeth of the Henderson Police Department confirmed his agency’s involvement in the investigation.

Incident reports do not include an estimate on cleanup costs at the schools. It is expected to be well into the thousands at Northern alone.

The cost estimate for cleaning up the old flea market building is $500, according to a deputy’s report. The building was last known to be secure of damage on Monday, Dec. 9, and markings were actually discovered at about 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Deputies were contacted on Friday at about 4 p.m.

The sheriff's office and police department are asking for anyone with information to contact them, or Crime Stoppers at (252) 492-1925. Information can also be given online at hvcrimestoppers.com. Henderson police can be called at (252) 431-6063 and Vance sheriff's deputies can be called at (252) 738-2200.

Crime Stoppers pays rewards of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest. Payments are made with anonymity.

The graffiti at Northern included the nickname of an individual. Ferguson said security has been increased at Northern as well as Southern Vance High School.

Ferguson said that because a name in graffiti usually indicates a threat to that person, law enforcement is also focused on providing additional protection to the individual.

“There is also extra law enforcement present at both of the high schools,” Ferguson said.

When charges are filed, damage estimates are expected to be available. Terri Hedrick, public information officer for Vance County Schools, said an estimate was not yet available.

“When we are ready to wrap up our investigation, we will include the cost information from the schools as part of our charges against those responsible,” Ferguson said.

In addition to the graffiti found at Northern early Friday morning, social media buzzed with a threat of violence at the school. Northern and other schools in the county lost students throughout the day when parents came to pick up children.

The school system used its telephone communication system with parents and guardians to deliver information.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.