Los Angeles police have arrested one man and three juveniles who allegedly broke into Westchester High School, damaged classrooms and stole approximately $14,000 worth of computers and electronics early Thursday morning, February 25th, school and police officials said.
The suspects, a 19-year-old man and three 17-year-old boys, allegedly vandalized 15 classrooms and took 17 laptop computers, including two personal computers after breaking in to the five buildings on the high school campus, 7400 Manchester Ave., Playa del Rey, between midnight and 2 a.m., school and police officials said.
Los Angeles school police, who were alerted to the scene by a silent alarm activation, saw the suspects inside one of the buildings and arrested them on site, Los Angeles Police Department Pacific Det. Sharon Brady said.
The adult suspect, Forest Wash of Inglewood, has been charged with two counts of burglary and one count each of grand theft and felony vandalism, she said. Charges are pending against two juveniles from Inglewood and one juvenile from Los Angeles, who are all 17 years old. None of the suspects is believed to be a Westchester High student, Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Cox said.
Wash is suspected of driving the group to the high school, where they allegedly used bolt cutters to remove the security screens on doors and windows and smashed the glass to enter the buildings, Brady said.
Principal Bruce Mims said officials were shocked to learn of the campus break-in but he credited staff with helping to ensure that classes continued on the day of the incident.
“To the credit of our staff and the maintenance operations crew, most of the damage was cleaned up by the time instruction began,” Mims said. “For the most part instruction went off without a hitch.”
In addition to broken glass and cut security screens in the classrooms, which included a cooking classroom, damage was caused when fire extinguishers were set off, Cox said. Some stolen property was recovered after it was dropped by suspects attempting to flee and other items were found in the suspects’ vehicle, Cox said.
Brady said it is unlikely that the suspects had prior knowledge as to the specific location of certain property on campus.
“They hit five different buildings; they pretty much had plenty of time to go through and look around,” she said.
Some classrooms that were deemed uninhabitable with the damage held classes in the auditorium on the day of the incident, she said.
Mims lauded the efforts of staff and teachers for doing all they could to ensure that instruction continued and he praised the students for their resilience. A letter was sent out to parents and guardians of students informing them of the break-in and what steps were taken to ensure students’ safety.
Police are investigating if the four suspects are wanted in connection with any other local school burglaries, including a recent incident at a school in Inglewood, Brady said.