Mat-Su Valley School Bus Vandals Charged

MAT-SU – Alaska State Troopers arrested four teenage boys at their Mat-Su homes Monday after they were charged in last week’s vandalism of 44 Mat-Su school buses – an incident that forced the Mat-Su Borough School District to close schools for a day on Nov. 29.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said the boys were in the custody of their parents over the weekend while troopers continued their investigation. The arrests Monday were pre-arranged so parents could be present when the boys were taken away to Mat-Su Youth Facility in Palmer.

Deryck Harris, 18, and the other three boys – ages 16, 17 and 17 – were each charged with third-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, troopers said. The 16-year-old was also charged with fourth-degree theft and furnishing alcohol to a minor, for allegedly stealing a bottle of vodka from the liquor store at Tesoro 2-Go in Wasilla.

“They stopped at a liquor store where he went in and stole a bottle of vodka and provided it to the others in the group,” Wilkinson said. “Three of the four boys consumed alcohol.”

Troopers did not release names of the juvenile suspects, but David Coon’s mother confirmed her son was one of two Burchell High School students involved in the incident. The other two boys are Wasilla High School students.

Mat-Su Youth Facility Superintendent Bruce Collins said youths in this situation must see a judge within 48 hours of their detention at the facility.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “These guys will probably go to court today or tomorrow.”

Depending on the situation, Collins said the youths could face a number of different scenarios when they go before a judge.

“It can go a whole bunch of directions,” he said. “If they can’t go back home, we don’t have a whole lot of foster homes in the Valley. In that case they might stay with us. If they order psychological evaluations, they will stay with us until that can be completed.”

The boys are suspected of deflating tires in 44 First Student buses, breaking mirrors and unplugging 110 buses from their engine-block heaters, which caused the buses not to start in subzero weather on Nov. 29.

JOEL DAVIDSON
Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman

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