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Intruder enters East High School through propped door, steals students' belongings, police say

Police said the suspect entered the school after classes had ended and rummaged through the dance team's bags
Denver East High School
Posted at 6:07 AM, Apr 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-27 08:07:15-04

DENVER, CO — An intruder walked through a propped door into East High School on Monday evening and rummaged through students' bags before taking keys and stealing a car, Denver police said on Wednesday morning.

In a letter sent to the families of East High School dance team members, Principal Terita Walker said the intruder entered the school through a door that was propped open in the North Courtyard. The suspect accessed the dance studio and stole students' belongings while they rehearsed for a dance performance.

"While I know we were fortunate that no student or staff member was physically harmed, students and staff were still victimized and left feeling concern, fear, and a lack of safety," said Walker.

A school leader called the off-duty school resource order, who contacted the Denver Police Department, according to Denver Public Schools. DPS Department of Climate and Safety patrol officers responded to the school.

Walker called the Denver Police Department's delayed response to the call "disappointing."

The police department said a caller reported the break-in around 7:00 p.m. Monday. It was reported as a "cold burglary," meaning the suspect was not at the scene, and because of this the incident was placed as a lower priority on the dispatch queue.

Officers arrived at the scene at 9:12 p.m.

"In addition to the prioritizing of calls for service, response times can be affected by other higher-priority calls for service in a district at any given time," a police spokesperson said. "The two full-time school resource officers provided by DPD to East High School were off-duty when this incident was reported."

Police determined that a male suspect entered the school through an unlocked door and took car keys from a bag. The suspect then stole a car, police said.

The vehicle was recovered Tuesday morning, police said.

Ashlee Lane, whose daughter was practicing inside the school’s auditorium at the time of the incident, said she is thankful no one was hurt.

"This person could've had a weapon. This person could have hurt somebody, could've done something,” said Lane.

The department said it does not believe the suspect is associated with the high school in any way.

Police are working with Denver Public Schools on the safety issue and to gather video evidence.

Walker's letter said after-school security has been requested since the beginning of the school year, but the DPS Safety Team has not been able to fulfill the need due to a lack of resources.

DPS said in a statement later in the day that the DPS Department of Climate and Safety will provide East High School with after-school security for the remainder of the school year.

"Everyone has worked so hard to put this show together," the letter reads about the dance team. "It is my hope that we can support each other through this experience and be able to celebrate and witness the amazing artistic talents of the East Dance Company this week."