The founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted, which has been working to restore the Ashburn Colored School, said he was surprised suspects connected to vandalism of the historic schoolhouse were found so quickly.
“Everyone at the school was genuinely surprised at how quickly these kids were found,” said Deep Sran, founder and academic lead of the Loudoun School for the Gifted.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday evening that five teenagers were found connected with the graffiti, which included racist and obscene messages. Three 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old from Sterling and a 16-year-old from Ashburn have been interviewed by detectives.
Sheriff Mike Chapman said the first suspect was identified through a tip.
“We had several tips, but this one in particular was very good,” Chapman said. “We followed up on it, and it led us to a particular suspect, and then from there we did all the background and interviews and so forth, and that’s how we came up with the five.”
Chapman said his department is still analyzing evidence from the scene, as well as seeking corroborating evidence such as purchases and camera footage. He said the interviews were “extremely helpful” in identifying the five suspects.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kraig Troxell said all five of the teens attend public schools. He also said it will be determined later whether anyone will receive the $1,000 reward money from Crime Solvers and $1,000 from the Loudoun Democrat and Republican committees.
Investigators will work with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Loudoun County Juvenile Court Service Unit Intake Department to obtain charges in the case. The names of the suspects are not being released because they are younger than 18.
The sheriff also said he isn’t ready yet to speculate on motive, but credited his investigators and the public outreach from the department and public officials with bringing in tips so quickly.
Phillip Thompson, president of the Loudoun NAACP, offered a word of caution to prosecutors and the community at large as the case against the five teenagers moves forward.
“My concern is that everyone is going to overreact and really hammer these kids,” he said. “They need to be punished but they also need to be educated. There’s so much emotion built up they may have a tendency to go overboard. But these are just kids.”