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5 more students are arrested in vandalism case

POSTED: September 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

The big mouths of teenagers accused of spray-painting graffiti at schools in a Gainesville-Hall North Hall rivalry helped land them in jail this week.

On Wednesday, three Gainesville High School students and two Gainesville Middle School students were charged with second-degree criminal damage to property for last week’s vandalism at Mount Vernon Elementary, a day after three North Hall students were charged with defacing Gainesville High.

Gainesville High students Jesus Alberto Ruiz-Vargas, 18, Julio Cesar Cortez, 17, and Ruben Castillo Ramos, 17, and two male Gainesville Middle School students, ages 15 and 13, were charged in the elementary school vandalism, Hall County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Ware said Wednesday.

They are accused of spray-painting profanities and the words "Go Big Red" on a portable classroom, an outbuilding and a Dumpster. The damage was estimated at $1,500. It was discovered Friday morning at a county school that is less than a mile from North Hall High School.

On Tuesday, authorities announced the arrests of four people in connection with what was believed to be retaliatory vandalism at Gainesville High School over the weekend.

Brandon Eddie Cannon, 17, and three juveniles, including two girls, were charged with spray-painting profanities and "Go Trojans" on the front windows and doors of Gainesville High. A drink machine and several picnic tables were also overturned. The damage, which was discovered Sunday, was estimated at $7,450.

Cannon wasn’t enrolled at any area school, but the three juveniles — a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl, and a 15-year-old girl — are North Hall High School students, Ware said.

Police typically do not release the names of people younger than 17 who are charged with crimes.

Ware said the quick arrests of nine teens in connection with the two cases resulted from "basically interviewing the peers" of the suspects, who apparently made it known they had committed the vandalism.

"If not bragging, they were at least talking to someone who ultimately talked to us," Ware said. He said at least some of the suspects had admitted their involvement to authorities.

The investigation was spearheaded by the Gainesville-Hall County Gang Task Force, though the crimes are not believed to be gang related. The task force investigates numerous graffiti and vandalism cases and has developed good contacts within the school systems through its gang work, Ware said.

"I think we have a good rapport with some of the young people, based on our experience," Ware said.



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