2 juveniles charged after ‘concerning’ graffiti found at Henrico school
HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico Police have arrested two juveniles after graffiti was found at a Henrico County high school.
The two juveniles are charged with misdemeanor trespassing, felony vandalism and conspiracy to commit a felony. Police said there was no credible threat.
The vandalism occurred at Mills E. Godwin High School, located in the 2100 block of Pump Road on May 12. School officials said the two juveniles charged are students at Godwin.
“I actually drove past it and I was just really surprised at first honestly,” Holden Fisher said.
Fisher graduated in 2017 and his brother goes to the school now, and his sister is set to start in the fall.
“I don’t think anyone should be afraid going to school and that’s what my little brother was saying,” Fisher said.
Henrico Schools sent a statement saying:
Earlier today, school system personnel and Henrico County Police identified and questioned two minors believed to be responsible for the graffiti vandalism discovered Sunday morning at Mills E. Godwin High School. After lengthy discussions with those minors and their parents, Henrico Police filed charges and referred the minors to the Juvenile Justice System. Henrico Police have no reason to believe there is any credible threat to Godwin or to any other school in Henrico County. Please share with your student(s) that we look forward to having a great day on Wednesday.
Police said, “the content of the vandalism is concerning,” and detectives were investigating the potential of the act being a hate crime.
“It definitely offended me,” said Freshman Andrew Levin.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor released the following statement in regards to the arrests:
"As I have said repeatedly, hate, bigotry, and racism will not be tolerated in Henrico County. My understanding is that all three of those charged in connection with these crimes are juveniles. We now must gather more information so we can understand what circumstances, if any, led them to commit such egregious acts. Moving forward, my office will be thoroughly investigating these cases to make sure it does not happen again and to determine the best way to handle the unacceptable acts committed by these young people to ensure the community’s safety.”
Due to the vandalism, police increased patrols around the following schools: Freeman and Godwin high schools, Quioccasin and Tuckahoe middle schools, and Davis, Pemberton, Pinchbeck and Ridge elementary schools.
With only four-and-a-half weeks of school left, school leaders and police said they do not believe this was a simple prank.
"This strikes me as something quite different, quite concerning,” said Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks. “When we find out who was responsible we'll address it to the fullest extent possible."
Henrico County Schools Superintendent Amy Cashwell echoing that statement, “strongly condemning these hateful and threatening acts”.
Classes continued as usual Monday despite the graffiti that gained students’ and staff’s attention over the weekend.
“Obviously the teachers wanted to discuss it but also give back to the classroom,” Levin said. “This is a concern, but that classroom still needs to be learning so this can’t be a distraction.”
Henrico County Public Schools released the following statement Sunday in regard to the vandalism:
“Shortly after 9:30 this morning we communicated directly with the Godwin High School staff and parent community. We let them know that we are aware and responding to the significant amount of graffiti vandalism to the school. The images are hateful, disgusting and have zero place in society. We condemn these acts in the strongest terms. We are thankful to have the immediate assistance of our partners with Henrico Police. We want our community to please be assured that when we determine who was responsible, both law enforcement and school administration will be addressing the situation to the fullest possible extent. We are still in the beginning stages of assessing the situation and we will send updates when there is new information to share.”
The school also released another statement regarding a date mentioned in the vandalism:
“In addition, one of the acts of graffiti depicted a violent threat and appeared to mention the date of May 15, which would be this Wednesday. We are in constant touch with Henrico Police to investigate this apparent threat and to take steps that will ensure the safety of our school tomorrow and throughout the week.”
“That’s a very concerning thing to see on this building or in any school,” Jenks said.
“I saw more teachers outside, more teachers inside and police” Levin said. “I definitely felt a little bit safer.”
The May 15th date, written in European style, heightened concerned for families in the area, especially in light of recent events that have taken place across the nation.
“People are talking about whether they’re going to come to school Wednesday or not,” Levin said.
“This is horrifying that people would do this,” Godwin High School alum Phoebe Bird said. “Threaten all these kids for no reason is horrifying.”
Bird said she was sent a photo of some of the graffiti from a friend but had to see it for herself.
“I didn’t think it was all this,” she added. “They sent me one picture. I didn’t know it was like literally guns. I’m shaking. This is horrifying.”
Kaylee Freeman, who also graduated from Godwin, expressed concerns for friends still attending the school.
“I hate this,” she said. “I hate that we have friends that are still going there, and that this could even be a possibility.”
Monday, the Henrico County School Board released a statement expressing disappointment following the vandalism discovered at the school and in a neighborhood near Freeman High School on Friday.
In part the statement reads:
"Hate, intolerance and threats to the physical and emotional well-being of our school communities are unacceptable and contrary to our core values as a school system and society.
At the same time, this Board and our dedicated faculty and staff stand encouraged by the tremendous show of community support in response to these acts. We appreciate the families and organizations that have offered their hand in partnership, including the Henrico branch of the NAACP, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, and many other families and community-minded citizens. On behalf of the entire School Board, I say ‘thank you’."
School officials said as part of the investigation, they would be reviewing video footage, meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond to share updates and bring in custodial staff to clean off the graffiti.
"This is a community that won't let what happened define them,” Jenks said. “They won't let this define the school or the community that surrounds the school. They want to demonstrate that Godwin is bigger and better and above all this."
The investigation is ongoing.
Police said have also charged a juvenile in connection to graffiti being spray painted in the area of Regency Mall and on street signs. Police said the two cases are not related.
Anyone with information should contact the Henrico County Police Division at 804-501-5000.
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