From the Archive: Vandals Strike Warm Springs Elementary School

I’ve got a story in today’s paper about a time capsule from 1986 that was opened at Warm Springs Elementary School on Monday.

To my surprise, and to the surprise of most of the returning students, vandals had trashed the school in 1994 and stolen about half the items from the box, which had been stored in the school’s trophy case. The vandals really did a number on the school. Here is the Mercury News story about it from Nov. 12, 1994.

Youthful vandals trashed a Fremont elementary school on Friday, smearing condiments throughout much of the building, breaking windows and invaluable mementos — and apparently photographing the widespread destruction. 

Police suspect two boys between the ages of 12 and 14 took advantage of the school holiday to wreck and burglarize Warm Springs Elementary but did not know how much replacement and repair costs would run. Whatever the price, Principal Ethel Murphy said it was far too high.


“It’s devastating to everybody to have this happen, especially to think that there are individuals out there who would do this to a school, ” she said, sifting through damage done to her office. “Whoever did it, they had a vicious heart, I’ll tell you that much. Because they took everything they could to destroy and they enjoyed it.”


In Murphy’s office, the vandals dumped rubber cement and white correction fluid on her desk blotter. They smashed a music box shaped like a schoolhouse and decapitated a wooden doll of a teacher. “These are the things they ruined, things you can’t replace, ” Murphy said wistfully.


Officer Butch Miller said it was unclear how long the vandals were in the school, located on the 47300 block of Warm Springs Boulevard. But about 2:15 p.m., the school’s fire alarm rang, drawing the attention of children who were playing nearby.


Witnesses saw a glimpse of two boys as they left the building and hopped on an AC Transit bus going north. The witnesses informed police. But by the time officers could stop the bus near Fremont and Stevenson boulevards, the pair had gotten off, Miller said.


When officers went through the school, they said, they were surprised and shocked by what they came across.


Police think the vandals smashed the window to a side door to enter the school. It appears they took Polaroid pictures as they went through the school, perhaps to show off to friends. Officers recovered Polaroids that didn’t turn out right.


Some of the worst destruction was upstairs in the faculty lounge. Coffee and ice tea mixes and pieces of light bulbs were strewn everywhere. The vandals broke a soda machine and an air conditioner. They painted the gang insignia “XIV” on a wall with white correction fluid, but police said that appeared to be just something to mislead them.


“If it was a gang thing, it would have been all over the walls, ” Miller said. “That was an afterthought. Their main thing was destruction, and they took whatever it was that looked good to them.”


Near where they first came in, a black vinyl chair had cleanser sprinkled all over it. The door to one of the cabinets had been taken off its hinge. In the next room, the kitchen, the vandals spilled soup, milk, ketchup and mustard to make an unholy mess.


They broke into three display cases down the hall, breaking many of the school’s 70 trophies in two and perhaps taking others. They smashed the cover of an antique piano and some of its insides, and slashed several of the keys with an unknown implement.


In the hallway, the youths broke open a time-capsule left by the class of 1986 that included a student-made videotape, a map of the school, a textbook, and a rock n’ roll tape by the Stray Cats.


Some children who lived close to the school were both upset and scared by the vandalism. “Our school was just painted, ” said 10-year-old Laura Clay. “It was starting to look nice and they had to come to ruin it. . . . We have tons of things that are really important that are gone now.”

Matt Artz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *