New evidence in Farmdale Elementary School arson
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New details in an arson investigation at a North Valley school: Action News got an exclusive first look at the evidence that led authorities to three boys suspected of starting the fire at Farmdale Elementary School.
Weaver Union School District officials say the campus is relatively new. It's just six years old and is equipped with some of the latest technology. Those gadgets, combined with an observant teaching staff helped detectives identify the children.
Surveillance video captured by a security camera on the campus, early Tuesday morning, shows three people dressed in dark clothing make their way towards classrooms, trying door knobs and looking for a way inside.
"We actually surveyed it to see if the door was open or not and it has a crash bar on it. It's one of those special doors that they developed for the Columbine incident. It has a crash bar on it and the crash bar was locked," said Weaver Union Superintendent John Curry. "One of two things may have happened. Either they (school staff) didn't close it or latch it well enough or the students used force or jimmied their way in using another apparatus to try and open that door."
Curry said the video provided detectives with two important details; the size of the suspects and the number of people involved in the incident.
"We could kind of tell that they were younger students because of how tall they were against other landmarks like trash cans and things, so the video told us we're looking for young kids," said Curry.
Once inside, officials say the boys ransacked the room that belongs to the school's most vulnerable students. 14 children in the special education class called it their home away from home. The principal didn't want to appear on camera, but Action News the suspects pulled out desk drawers, turned over tables and set an area underneath a TV screen on fire, causing the monitor to melt. She also said the students left behind a machete and some other incriminating evidence.
"There was some graffiti in the room, some tagging in the room, a specific word and we had seen that word on a student's binder earlier in the year," said Curry. "Administrators put two and two together and then called the kid into questioning and the police department took it from there."
Curry said the fire wiped out power to the library, science and computer labs. A team of electricians repaired the wires on Wednesday and restored power to the rooms. Meantime, the district is still dealing with disciplining the children.
"Here's the thing that's sad for us, we have three kids that are under 14 years old that are out and about at two in the morning and we're just really upset and frustrated about how can we support families in this kind of thing so these types of things don't happen," he said.
Curry said the 10 year old boy was suspended from school and faces expulsion. He said, he believed one of the two 14 year old suspects was a brother or other relative and the other was a close friend. Both teens were booked into Juvenile Hall.
As the school continues to assess the damage, the estimate on repairs continues to climb. Curry believes the total is now closer to $60,000.
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