June 2, 2003 – Police and Education Department officials on St. Thomas have asked the FBI for help in finding the people responsible for the theft of 90 Springfield rifles and 20 other firearms from a Junior ROTC room at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School over the weekend — and in recovering the weapons.
School administrators also said on Monday that computer monitors were smashed and an American flag was destroyed in the Saturday night break-in. Acting Principal Lydia Lettsome said that in addition to the JROTC area, three classrooms and an administrative office in the school were vandalized.
Speaking at a press conference called by Education Commissioner Noreen Michael to discuss high school accreditation issues, Lettsome said administrators and school staff rushed to put the classrooms back in order in time to hold final exams there on Monday morning.
Along with the Springfield rifles, which are used in student drills, authorities reported that 15 air rifles and five air pistols were taken. Sgt. Thomas Hannah, Police Department spokesman, said ROTC students used the air guns for target practice.
The Springfields "right now are not operable," Lettsome said, because the firing pins had been removed. Hannah warned, however, that anyone who tries to adjust any of the rifles could end up harming themselves or someone else. "If they don't know what they're doing, they can get hurt," he said on Monday.
The Police Safe Streets Task Force has been called in to help along with the FBI. The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program is federal initiative, Hannah pointed out.
According to broadcast reports, a message about not wanting to take an exam was written on a chalkboard in one of the vandalized classrooms.
At the press conference Monday, Michael stated that the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, while giving the green light to Education Department plans to seek accreditation for the territory's other three public high schools, has rejected Eudora Kean's bid, citing several deficiencies.
One of them, Michael said, concerned security.
The others had to do with leadership, finances, discipline and what was described as failure of school personnel to engage an accreditation team which visited the school last month to conduct an inspection.
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