Third teen arrested after Riverhead school buses vandalized

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO |District mechanic Kurt Maas uses spray paint and graffiti remover to clean a vandalized school bus. Police said two teens have been arrested in the incident.

Police have nabbed a third teenager — who tried to run from the arresting officers — in connection to Thursday night’s alleged school bus vandalism, said police Lt. David Lessard.

Sergio Gonzalez, 18, of Flanders was arrested about 12 p.m. near County Route 58, police said.

Lt. Lessard said Mr. Gonzalez tried to flee from police but was caught nearby. He was transported to police headquarters, processed and held for arraignment.

Two other Riverhead teenagers, Terrance Pertillar, 19, and Khalil Pertillar, 17, both students in the district, were arrested last night for their alleged involvement in the incident.

All three were charged with felony second-degree criminal mischief, criminal trespassing and petit larceny.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said police received a call early Friday morning from district security guards that an unknown amount of people caused damage to the district buses. He said Terrance and Khalil Pertillar were located by police leaving the scene.

Terrance and Khalil Pertillar were arraigned Friday in Riverhead Justice Court, Lt. Lessard said. The court set $5,000 bail for Terrance and $1,000 bail for Khalil, he said.

This was not Terrance Pertillar’s first run in with police. Mr. Pertillar was arrested last September after he was allegedly caught stealing car stereos from a Kroemer Avenue junkyard, said police Det. Dixon Palmer. Mr. Pertillar faces possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, and criminal trespassing charges in that incident, Det. Palmer said.

Police said the incident is still under investigation and that there may be more arrests in the case.

More than 40 Riverhead school buses were damaged after several people broke onto district property Thursday night, vandalizing the buses using fire extinguishers and paint, and damaging wiring in the vehicles, district officials and police said.

The vandals sprayed fire extinguishers inside the buses, painted graffiti on the buses, cut stop sign wires on about five of the vehicles and may have cut a brake line on one of the buses, officials said.

“While end-of-the-year pranks are a tradition among many schools throughout the county, what happened here last night went far beyond harmless pranks,” Riverhead superintendent Nacny Carney said. “There was serious and expensive damage done to taxpayer owned property and I am deeply disturbed by what happened.”

Ms. Carney said the district is still working out a cost estimate for the damages.

Ms. Carney said the district would have been unable to open school Friday if not for district custodians, transportation and maintenance staff, who came in between 1:30 and 6 a.m. to clean the buses and repair them for school the next day.

District transportation supervisor Amala Cain said 25 employees have been working since 1:30 a.m. to clean and repair the buses.

“We just started doing what we had to do to get everything running on schedule,” she said.

Ms. Cain said thanks to the work of district employees, a full fleet of buses were ready for service by the morning schedule, adding that each bus was tested to make sure it was safe before it went out on a route.

The some of the vandals wrote “F—” on the side of a bus, while another bus had “Danger” and “Do Not Use” written on the windows. Vandals also used spray paint on the bus’ stenciling, covering up letters on the “School District” sign to spell out “COOL TRIC.”

She said the vandalism was “disheartening” and has never happened this badly before in the district.

Late Friday morning, district employees were still cleaning off the last of the buses, wiping down the interiors and removing spray paint, in many cases for the second time to get all of it off.

Mechanic Kurt Maas said the fire extinguishers caused the most trouble.

“That stuff just settles and it’s thick and it gets on everything,” he said. “Gets on your chest and everywhere.”

Ms. Carney said the district “will work in full cooperation with the police and the district attorney to ensure that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | One of the 40 Riverhead district school buses that was vandalized Thursday night. District officials said the vandals used spray paint and fire extinguishers to spray the buses.