UNION COUNTY, N.C. — The Union County Sheriff's Office said a pair of suspects are in custody and facing charges for an alleged "senior prank" at Sun Valley High School that caused thousands of dollars in damage.
21-year-old Javier Sheffield and 18-year-old Nalen Geoffery were both identified as the main suspects by deputies. Both face a felony charge of damaging computers and a misdemeanor charge of injury to personal property. They're accused of damaging the high school's computer equipment and electrical panels.
The sheriff's office noted Geoffery is a student, and Sheffield is not. Both are still being processed into the Union County Detention Center. As of publication, their conditions of release haven't been determined, and additional charges are possible.
"The damage caused by these suspects during this 'prank' is unacceptable and will not be tolerated," said Sheriff Eddie Cathey in a statement. "Local parents need to be extra vigilant this time of year and ensure their children are making smart decisions that will keep them from jeopardizing their futures."
Cathey estimated the damage would cost the school about $20,000.
The sheriff's office first increased patrols at schools after a TikTok video surfaced of the damage caused by the alleged "senior prank."
"We have responded and investigated several seniors pranks throughout the years but nothing that has resulted in such criminal property damage incident as this," James Maye, a lieutenant with the sheriff's office, explained to WCNC Charlotte. "We had several items of furniture that were damaged and completely taken out of classrooms. The cleanup cost itself - from flour being spread throughout the school; honey and syrup poured all over electrical panels, which is not only dangerous but expensive to replace."
The TikTok video shows damage across the school's campus, including plastic cling wrap being placed on bathroom fixtures. At least one classroom's lights no longer worked and an electric exit sign was destroyed.
"The time and money it has and will take to clean this school and replace the electrical and computer equipment that was destroyed is still being calculated but is expected to be significant," the sheriff's office posted on Facebook. "Those involved in causing the extensive property damage are currently being identified by UCSO deputies and will likely be charged with numerous criminal offenses related to this incident."
Comments on the post suggested the school not allow the students to participate in graduation or hold their diplomas. Some said the "prank" went beyond harmless fun and went into criminal behavior.
"This was vandalism," one person wrote. "Pouring honey into electrical outlets and TVs knowing the result is BEYOND a prank. Hold diplomas and fine these students."
"This caused serious damages and I truly hope whoever did this is caught, charges pressed, diplomas held, and actions reported to any potential universities they were planning on attending," another comment said. "Actions have consequences and these students need to be shown what real life is."
Georgiann Ecclaston lives in Indian Trail and said she is taken aback by the video and actions of the students.
"I think the children or their parents should pay for that damage. I hate to see them have criminal charges at the very start of their mature life against them, and perhaps get them out of school, lose scholarships that sort of thing, but I certainly should not have to pay for it with my taxes,” Ecclaston said.
"I get being young and having fun but there is a fine line between having fun and causing damage and harm to everybody else," Kristine Robinson, who also shared her disappointment after seeing the video, said.
The sheriff's office said entering a school building without permission or authorization outside of school hours is a felony. Damaging any property inside a school is also an arrestable offense that could result in the suspect or suspects being held responsible for all financial damages.
"With smart decision-making and proper parental supervision, we can ensure that all of our students make positive, lifelong memories during this special time and not jeopardize their futures," the Facebook post from the sheriff's office reads.
Maye encourages parents to speak to their children about the severity of this senior prank.
"We don’t want to be the people that say that seniors cannot celebrate this major accomplishment in their lives but you have to be responsible," he said. "One quick decision to jump in on some property damage can jeopardize your future, jeopardize your college career, your employment career because these individuals are going to be criminally charged."
While there have now been two arrests, the investigation is still ongoing. Anyone with information about this incident or any other suspicious activity is asked to call the Union County Sheriff's Office at 704-283-3789.
Note: WCNC instituted a new policy in March 2021 regarding the broadcast or posting of mugshots.
WCNC will only air or post a mugshot if the person has been formally charged with a crime and in a few other cases. The exceptions include: If it appears the person could be a danger to themselves or others or if they are wanted by authorities; to differentiate between people with a common name; if the photos could encourage more victims to come forward. The news-editorial leadership may also decide to use a mugshot based on the severity of the crime(s) committed and/or the level of public interest in the crime and ensuing criminal proceedings.
Contact Jesse Pierre at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Wake Up Charlotte To Go is a daily news and weather podcast you can listen to so you can start your day with the team at Wake Up Charlotte.
SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Stitcher || TuneIn || Google Podcasts
All of WCNC Charlotte's podcasts are free and available for both streaming and download. You can listen now on Android, iPhone, Amazon, and other internet-connected devices. Join us from North Carolina, South Carolina, or on the go anywhere.