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School board OKs $1,000 reward

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Crime > Officials up ante in search of spray paint perpetrators

By Tris DeRoma

If you were looking to buy a Sony Playstation 4, maybe some rims, a new computer or perhaps a special night out with your significant other (guys, Valentine’s Day is around the corner) but you just can’t afford it right now, listen up.

The Los Alamos School Board is giving away $1,000; all you have to do is pick up a phone.

The catch is, you’ll be calling the Los Alamos Police Department at 622-8222 to tell them who spray painted the front of Piñon Elementary School Saturday night. That’s it. You don’t have to give your name or anything. If it leads to an arrest and a conviction, you get the money, no questions asked.

As of now, the police have few clues.

The only details that are known for sure is that the vandal(s) used mostly red, yellow and blue spray paint, none of it seeming to have been purchased locally. Parents, contractors and other who keep spray paint on hand are urged to check their paint supplies to see if any amounts of those colors are missing from their supply.

At a special meeting of the Los Alamos Board of Education Wednesday, some members speculated the perpetrators might even still have the paint on their clothing or skin. The only other clue authorities were willing to reveal was that the damage was extensive. The perpetrators even spray painted the marquee out in front of the school.

Given the extent of the damage, board members are confident that someone out there knows who it is or perhaps saw something.

“It’s pretty brazen that they spray painted the whole front of the school on a very busy street,” school board member Melanie McKinley said. “This didn’t take a couple of minutes, it took a long time.”

But police said they aren’t any closer to catching the vandal(s) now than they were when the graffiti was discovered Sunday morning.

“We haven’t had this type of case of graffiti here in a long while,” Cpl. Jordan Redmond told board members. “Maybe small things, like electrical boxes, but nothing this extensive. We don’t know who it could be.”

The police have increased patrols in the area, just in case the vandal(s) return and try again.

School board members worked out the reward agreement Wednesday night. Their anger about what happened Saturday was palpable. So were the neighborhoods where the school is located, as board members acknowledged and thanked the many people that lived in the Piñon Elementary neighborhood for coming out that day and helping clean the mess up, within several hours.

According to the board members, residents came out in force armed with cleaning materials, power washers and even pizza to help in the clean-up.

“Teachers showed up, people that lived across the street brought cookies, people brought power washers from their own homes and what might have been an all-day event for our custodial crew took only about five hours,” LAPS

Superintendent Dr. Gene Schmidt said to the board during the meeting. “It really speaks well of White Rock and Piñon parents, some who didn’t even have kids in the school, but graduated from there.”

Principal Jill Gonzalez said on the morning of the discovery, people were pulling into the parking lot expressing their anger at what happened, as well as their sadness.

“We had people pulling into the parking lot saying, ‘this will not be tolerated, what can we do?’ ” Gonzalez said. “It was a real strong show of support and dismay. It felt like a kick in the stomach.”

But regardless of the good feelings, Schmidt also made it clear those responsible for the damage will be, and should be brought to justice.

“... It’s unacceptable; as a community we should not tolerate this kind of behavior,” he said to the board.

The board agreed and immediately set a reward of a $1,000 — the same amount of money that went into the cleanup — for anyone willing to come forward and say who did it.

School board members expressed certainty that they will get whoever did it.

“We just went out to the public and asked them to dip into their wallets invest in our schools, and by God, we are going to bull dog and safeguard that investment,” Board President Kevin Honnell said. “We owe it to the neighborhoods in Piñon, too. If we are going to be good neighbors we want that to be a pleasant and attractive place to live and we are going to do our part.”