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Several Factors Delayed Response

A combination of factors - from higher-priority calls to fear of the unknown - prevented police from putting a faster stop to a $100,000 vandalism spree at a South Hill school, officials say.

Two 13-year-old boys are suspected of trashing offices at Sacajawea Middle School for nearly an hour early Sunday while police, tipped by a silent alarm, gathered outside.

Patrol Capt. Bruce Roberts said Monday he is satisfied with his officers’ response to the incident even though they didn’t arrest the boys until more than an hour after the first patrolman arrived at the scene.

The size of the school campus, which occupies nearly a full city block, affected response time, Roberts said.

The first three officers couldn’t surround the campus to prevent escape and begin looking for suspects at the same time, he said.

“Our priority is not only to stop crime, but to apprehend the suspects,” Roberts said.

Getting reinforcements and a canine unit was slowed because several high-priority incidents were taking place about the same time, including a standoff with a North Side man who shot at police, and a reported drive-by shooting.

Adding to the delay, officers weren’t sure how many people were inside the school. “And they didn’t know if they were armed,” Roberts added.

They also had to wait for a school district official with a key to open a door.

Sacajawea Principal Herb Rotchford said Monday he understood why police chose to wait before going in to arrest the boys.

“Unfortunately, what it provided them was more time to do damage,” he said.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writer Jeanette White contributed to this report.