RANDOLPH — Three teens living at Randolph Children’s Home are accused of stealing a Randolph Central School District bus and taking it on a joy ride across county lines to Jamestown.
The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that the teens allegedly ran away from the troubled youth residential facility Sunday evening before breaking into the nearby Randolph district elementary school and bus garage and driving off with a 30-passenger school bus.
The bus was recovered Monday morning along the side of the road in Jamestown in Chautauqua County, while the teens were found a few miles away from the abandoned vehicle.
“It’s a pretty bold move to first of all break into a school … let alone on top of that steal a bus and take it for a ride for a few hours and then ditch it,” said Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brandon Walters. “That’s a pretty bold move.”
The teens, a 17-year-old male, a 16-year-old male and a 14-year-old female, were all charged with two counts of third-degree burglary, class D felonies; one count of second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony; and one count third-degree criminal mischief, a class E felony.
The 17-year-old was arraigned and is being held in Cattaraugus County Jail on $5,000 bail, while the others were remanded to the East Ferry detention facility with court appearances scheduled for a later date.
A call to Randolph’s Children Home, operated by nonprofit New Directions Youth and Family Services Inc., was not immediately returned Monday evening.
Juveniles who reside at the facility attend Randolph Academy, one of 12 Special Act school districts in the state established for the education of students who reside at child care institutions.
Randolph Children’s Home, Randolph Academy — and the separate Randolph Central School District’s elementary school, high school and bus garage — are all located next to each other on Main Street in Randolph.
According to Walters, the sheriff’s office received reports of break-ins at the elementary school, Gail N. Chapman Elementary School, and adjoining bus garage at 6:14 a.m. Monday. He said the first few bus drivers arriving that morning noticed broken windows. Some minor damage was also discovered in classrooms at the elementary school.
Walters said the teens were located and taken into custody without incident at roughly 7:45 a.m. with the assistance of the Ellicott Police Department. The town of Ellicott is located just outside the city of Jamestown.
The bus was then located at approximately 8:15 a.m. in Jamestown with the help of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, Walters said.
“I believe it was just parked on the side of the roadway,” he said. “I was told it was in a safe location and was not a traffic hazard.”
While the teens allegedly purposely caused damage to the bus, Walters said they did not get into any traffic accidents while driving it the approximately 15 miles from Randolph to Jamestown.
“You have a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old. I don’t know what kind of driving skills that they all have, but anyone that’s not used to driving, let alone a 30-passenger bus — we’re lucky there was no accidents or any other injuries due to this,” he added.
Walters said neither he nor any of his colleagues could recall an incident where juveniles stole a school bus, adding it was treated as a “serious situation” by the sheriff’s office.
“It raises the situation for law enforcement and for the Randolph Children’s Home if you have kids willing to run away from the facility and break into a school and then take a (bus),” he said.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)