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Security video an issue in Pirate probe

Police say they'll again check with school official to confirm there's no evidence on tape

by Kim Fickett and Ivan Foley
Landmark reporter

It's possible that tapes from security video cameras, earlier discounted as being of any help in the case, may yet play a role in the investigation into the theft of the carved Pirate statue at Platte County High School, Platte City police indicated this week.

In other new information related to the case, two school board members this week spoke publicly about the incident.

In phone interviews Tuesday night with Carey Rolofson, Platte County R-3 School Board president, and Lee Ann Fadler, board vice president, The Landmark specifically asked about security cameras in place near the entry to the high school lobby, from where the carved Pirate statue had been taken.

Rolofson and Fadler both indicated video cameras are in place in the area. Rolofson said he believes three cameras are in place near that front entrance. He said two of the cameras point either direction down the hallway. Though it would seem to be logical that the third camera would point toward the door in the area where the Pirate stood, Rolofson said he could not directly confirm that.
"That (the front lobby) would seem a logical place for a camera," Fadler said.

Rolofson said Craig Robinson, high school principal, would be the person to ask for specifics about camera positioning and operation. A phone call to Robinson for comment on Wednesday morning had been unreturned by press time.
Platte City Police Detective Dennis Trabue said police were aware that the video cameras were in place.

"According to the principal, there were no cameras that would've viewed the taking of the Pirate except the one in the foyer area. The principal told us that they didn't have video of the incident and we have taken their word for it," Trabue said.

Should police have taken school officials' word for it or should they have reviewed the tapes anyway?

"It's their equipment and their cameras. They said there was no evidence on the camera to reveal any criminal activity," Trabue said.
"What we were told initially (by Robinson) I believe is accurate, but I will certainly call him to verify that information," Trabue said Wednesday morning.
"We do know there was a tape in the camera and we understand that it was taking pictures up to midnight and after that it ceased to record. Why it stopped recording is unknown to us," Trabue added.
The detective explained that Robinson told police that the camera was set to record for eight hours instead of 12 hours as usual.

Authorities believe the Pirate was dragged from its usual location into the gym and out a rear entrance. This would seem to indicate that for a short time the cameras pointing down the hallways would have been able to capture the activity.

The eight-foot tall, 700 to 1,000 pound wood-carved Pirate was stolen from the high school lobby between 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 24.

Police say there were no signs of forced entry.

Sources stated the gym floor was gouged when the Pirate was dragged from the lobby to the rear door. The Pirate was reportedly retrieved by school personnel several days later after being discovered at an undisclosed location.

The statue was believed to have been carved around 1974 by John Faust, an art teacher at the high school, with the help of some students.

Both Rolofson and Fadler said the school is relying on police to do the investigation. School officials are not conducting their own probe into the matter, they said.

"Once the police start their investigation, we really should let the police do the investigation," Rolofson said.

"My understanding is that Mr. Robinson did make some inquiries on his own but felt since the Pirate was taken out of the confines of the school, the police should handle it," Fadler said.

She said Robinson had given school board members a report on the matter when the board held its reorganizational meeting after the election in the first week of April.

"Since then the superintendent has updated us on anything the police have been able to find out," Fadler remarked.

"Certainly we'd like to know what happened and how our security was breached at the high school," she added.

Responding to unconfirmed reports that athletes from the school may have been involved in the incident, Fadler said:

"It's a concern, certainly, but we have to be respectful of everybody's rights in this case."

Rolofson said that if the perpetrators are identified and are proven to be R-3 students, he is satisfied that the district has policies in place "for administrators to handle situations like this."

He countered the perception that athletes at the school are treated any differently than other students.

"That's a perception that exists everywhere, at universities and at other schools. I don't think that's a new public perception anywhere," Rolofson said.

"I can't think of a case here where we've done anything differently based on who the student was," he added.