PALATKA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three 14-year-olds have been accused of breaking into a Florida middle school and causing an estimated $100,000 in damage.
According to a post on the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, firefighters responded to reports of smoke at Jenkins Middle School in Palatka on Sunday afternoon. They reported seeing three teenagers running away from the school when they arrived. Deputies and Palatka police officers found “extensive damage” on the campus, including the gym, which is owned by the city.
Deputies said toilets and sinks were damaged and overflowing, windows were smashed, security cameras were destroyed, and 17 fire extinguishers were discharged on campus. The sheriff’s office said the suspected vandals used golf clubs found in the gym to damage property. The damaged cameras reportedly captured the vandalism before they were destroyed.
Deputies said the suspects appeared to be young, so they took the footage Palatka Junior-Senior High School, where one of the school resource officers identified the teenagers. They were charged with felony burglary with more than $1,000 in damages, felony criminal mischief and preventing or obstructing extinguishment of a fire by interfering with the fire extinguishers.
“This is one of the most extreme cases of vandalism I’ve ever seen,” Chief Deputy Joseph Wells told First Coast News. “You have to be held accountable for your crimes at any age.”
The sheriff’s office said the middle school was equipped with an alarm system, but it didn’t trigger during the alleged burglary. The city of Palatka is conducting its own investigation into the damages at the gym.