Howard County police believe the same gang of vandals who slashed tires on more than three dozen cars over the weekend also is responsible for a fire in a kindergarten classroom at Deep Run Elementary that caused more than $25,000 in water and soot damage.
As police looked for the vandals who early Sunday slashed the tires on 41 cars in the Sherwood Crossing apartment complex and in the Deep Run Mobile Home Park, a team of parents and school workers sifted through burned-out debris in the kindergarten room.
Class was canceled for the 104 kindergartners yesterday, but school officials expected the cleanup to be finished for them to return today.
"There is a lot of damage -- soot from the fire and water damage to carpets," Deep Run Principal Fran Donaldson said. "The classroom has to be repainted, the carpet shampooed, and there is a lot of damage to books and teacher supplies."
According to Donaldson and investigators, vandals broke into the school -- probably about 4: 45 a.m. -- and started a fire using bean bag chairs and books in one of three kindergarten classrooms.
The smoke set off the sprinkler system, but, for some reason, the school's alarm system did not go off to alert the police or fire departments, said Sgt. John E. Superson, a police spokesman.
Water from the sprinkler system flowed for about 14 hours until a passer-by noticed a broken classroom window at 6: 45 p.m. Sunday and called police, Superson said.
The vandals also smashed a teacher's rocking chair and threw a computer onto the floor, Donaldson said. About four classroom windows were shattered by shots from a pellet gun, police said.
"It was a lot of vandalism and that kind of nasty stuff," Donaldson said.
Superson said investigators believe that the slashed tires and school break-in were done by the same group of vandals, because the school is a short distance from the Sherwood apartments. He said a witness told investigators that he saw three or four young men -- in a small, red foreign car with tinted windows -- driving through the apartment complex about 4: 45 a.m.
The witness also reported seeing them running through the complex; although the witness thought it was suspicious, he did not tell police until later in the day as officers were going door to door, looking for clues as well as victims.
Anyone with information about the fire or slashed tires is asked to call Howard County police at 410-313-3200. Police are offering a $250 reward for information leading to an arrest and a conviction.