WASHBURN, Maine — It happened at the elementary school. The historical society. Then the Pentecostal Church, an apartment complex and a handful of houses in different neighborhoods. Within a year, at least a dozen local properties were vandalized in the quiet Aroostook County town of Washburn.
Many of the incidents were part of a string of attacks that all began on the same night in November 2018. For a short time, the vandalism seemed to stop and some semblance of peace in the town was restored. But less than one year later, similar incidents started happening again.
Credit: Courtesy of Roger Hewitt Jr.
Exactly one week ago, someone tried to burn down an apartment building with people living inside. Whoever did it left a note behind, spray painted on the building in fluorescent pink. The same two words that mysteriously appeared on various local properties in the past year — “Wolf Gang.”
Lindsey LaPointe was relaxing at home, listening to her friend sing in the shower. She had not heard her sound so happy and free in a long time — since before a toxic relationship had drained most of her energy.
Then all of a sudden, the sound of shattering glass echoed through the space. When police arrived, they found a solid glass ashtray outside of the apartment. Showing it to LaPointe, they asked if she recognized it.
It was the same ashtray from her porch, which someone had thrown through the double-paned window of her first story apartment.
There were also cuts into her window screens, LaPointe said, which were not there the night before.
She said she thought the vandals returned the following night to finish the job because the next morning, the pink words “Wolf Gang” had been spray painted in fluorescent pink on the white siding of the building, right beside the broken window.
“THE CLUBHOUSE WILL BE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE,” the Washburn Trail Runners Snowmobile Club wrote on its Facebook page on Oct. 27.
Credit: Courtesy of Washburn Pentecostal Church
“It’s a sad day when you can’t have a place without a security system. Sometime between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon the clubhouse was vandalized and there was an attempt to [set it on] fire. Thank God the fire didn’t work in their favor,” the group wrote.
The vandals tried to set the building on fire by burning window screens and attempting to light a flame onto one of the curtains that was sticking out from the kitchen door, according to the club.
They left the words, “Wolf Gang,” in pink spray paint on the garage door.
Larry Worcester had been principal of Washburn High School for not even two months when someone set fire to one of the wooden baseball dugouts on the campus, burning it down to its concrete slab base.
A few athletic playing fields sit on top of the hills just behind the schools. The baseball field is tucked just far enough away to prevent flyballs from reaching the elementary school playground below.
It also could double as a good hiding spot.
Credit: Nina Mahaleris
Worcester was in Bar Harbor for a training conference when he got a call saying that someone had set fire to the dugout and that it was lost completely.
Worcester was not around when the vandalism started up last year and isn’t sure who was found responsible. He said the students don’t talk about the incidences in school, or at least not to him.
“Nobody seems to know what’s going on,” he said.
Months later, someone returned to the fields and tried to set fire to the second baseball dugout, as they had with the first, but it didn’t catch.
Credit: Courtesy of Isaac Vaughn
Authorities think the same group of teens who allegedly vandalized the town last year are up to their old ways. “We believe it’s the same people because they’re using the same tag,” said Sgt. Jarad Carney. “I think it’s juveniles.”
Carney said he believed he saw a signature written on the side of the dugout before it burned down in June. Just two words — “Wolf pack.”
Halfway down the Porter Road, Kara and Alexis Buck remember the night when all the vandalism began. Around 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, 2018, Alexis had come home from work late and found two teenage boys in her driveway.
They were stealing the lids of her trash cans.
When she went to confront them, she said one of the boys lifted up his skateboard and bashed in the side of her mailbox — right in front of her.
She claimed he told her, “I’ve got nothing to lose,” when he did it. Kara said that their house wasn’t the only one vandalized in the town that night. As more residents began talking about the growing problem over Facebook, Kara started putting together a map of all the areas that people claimed were hit.
Credit: Nina Mahaleris
Before the boys disappeared into the night, Alexis said she remembers one of them saying to her, “I hope your cameras last the winter ’cause I’m coming back.”
That same night, vandals broke the window of the principal’s office at the elementary school and smashed the windows in a handful more of the school buses in the parking lot. It cost the school district $5,300 to repair the damage.
Then, presumably the same group, went to the Pentecostal Church on Main Street and smashed in a window of the church van parked in the lot behind the building.
At least three windows of a van belonging to the parks and recreation department were broken sometime during the same night.
Marcie Barbarula, Washburn recreation director, said she remembered the authorities told her it looked like someone had used a skateboard to smash the windows.
It cost the town $2,350 to replace them, Town Manager Donna Turner said.
A nervous community
One resident of the Porter Road, who somehow was spared from the vandalism that happened just a few houses down last year, said that she bought a new front door lock after hearing that the
trouble had started up again this year.
“What’s next? A barn with animals in it? A house with people in it? It’s escalating,” another resident said Nov. 8.
After learning that someone tried to burn down the Trail Runners clubhouse, Barbarula, the director of parks and recreation, drove to the center and inspected the building, worried that the vandals may have come back to do more.
Credit: Nina Mahaleris
After vandals tried to set fire to LaPointe’s apartment building Nov. 6, Sgt. Carney knew he needed to act fast. He called in the fire marshal and other law enforcement personnel to stake out the town and find the leader of the “Wolf Gang,” hopefully putting an end to the destruction.
With a tracking dog to sniff out the area, police were led from LaPointe’s apartment to another complex downtown where they found a teen. They arrested him just as he was leaving the building, Carney said.
It was the same 17-year-old who was charged with arson after allegedly trying to burn down a storage barn last spring, police said. He has not been convicted of that charge.
Police had recovered fingerprints from that scene which helped connect him to the most recent incident.
A police stakeout last week may have ended a year’s worth of undue torment for the community of Washburn — at least for a while. Since the arrest, Carney said, there have not been any more reports of vandalism.