JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. -- Just days after Paint Rock Valley School shut its doors for the last time, cameras caught four people breaking into the historic school and doing thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Principal Kevin McBride sat in front of his computer in his office scrolling through security footage. He watched the screen as a man, face covered and hat on backward, walked the deserted halls of the closed-down Paint Rock Valley School with a broom. The time stamp shows it was early Monday morning.
Seconds later the camera shook, and dust fell from the ceiling. Then the camera stopped. Video captured the same destruction to security cameras all over the historic school. One camera was taken down by a track and field discus, which destroyed the ceiling in the process.
At one point the video captured a perfect image of a man, his right tattooed arm holding a broom while the camera fell.
The video shows two men and two women walking around outside, and then coming in. "They forced entry here," said McBride, as he pointed to a window. They left a half-full calling card outside the window: a beer bottle that was half full.
"It's pretty significant damage," McBride said as he walked the powdered hallways, "These are the original floors." The group took a fire extinguisher to the hallways and classrooms. The chemical dusted everything in its path with a fine layer of yellow powder. Everything from the original wood floor, to computers, to chairs is covered.
"They busted the windows out of our vending machines," McBride said. Glass covered the gym floor near the machines. There are Cheerios scattered in a classroom and chip bags in the hallway.
The camera caught them in the gym, one of them in a hat they found in a classroom. Its wearer left it on the floor. Someone else left an empty beer bottle in another classroom. The broke into the science equipment, breaking a lock in the process.
"Forgiveness is there, I forgive them for tearing up, but I think they need to be held accountable for tearing up the school," McBride said.
That's what Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips said his investigators are working to do. "There are a lot of houses that are really close to the school, so we'll be talking to them to see if they heard or saw anything," Phillips said. There is a full investigation underway.
The school was built in the 30s by the people in the area. Every rock in its construction was gathered from Paint Rock Valley. Generations of families can say they went there. That's why the community says it's not just criminal mischief to them. The vandalism runs deeper than that. "I put my heart and soul into this school, and to walk into it and see that they cared nothing about the school, they were just here to see what they could tear up, or what fun they could have," McBride said.
Jackson County Schools officials plan to discuss the option of letting the community use the school now that it is closed. Now the entire place has to be cleaned up, and the staff there isn't sure if the floors will ever look the same again. McBride says the clean-up process is going to take some time.
It took these people just about an hour and a half to do thousands of dollars worth of damage.
If you know anything about what happened or recognize the people in the photo gallery in this story, call the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.