St. Johns Lutheran School Principal Karl Peterman shows the blank wall and cords left behind after the school was broken into Monday, Oct. 21, and the flat screen television was stolen from the library.
St. Johns Lutheran School Principal Karl Peterman shows the blank wall and cords left behind after the school was broken into Monday, Oct. 21, and the flat screen television was stolen from the library.
"I don't understand the concept of their bravery or stupidity," said St. Johns Lutheran Parochial School Principal Karl Peterman, "to break into a school and church."

Peterman expressed his frustration and disbelief last week following finding the destruction left by thieves who broke into the school and church in Wykoff last Monday night, Oct. 21, prying open doors, desks, a safe, a cabinet and file cabinets, forcing the principal to call off school for the day so that the sheriff's deputies could investigate and staff could assess damage and overcome their initial anger. A 32-year-old Rochester man has been arrested in connection with the burglary (see related story).

"I came to school on Tuesday morning and found it - I called 911 right away, then I sent out an email to parents to tell them. I guess they broke in between 10 Monday night and 6 Tuesday morning, and we think that they left because someone drove by and saw them trying to get into my classroom - the front door is looking right into my doorway as you drive by. We aren't certain how they got into the building, but they basically proceeded to go through the building - the classrooms, the office, any desk or office locked for any reason...they used pry bars to open it. We have doors to replace, locks to replace, the hinges on my classroom door because the hinges are bent back because they couldn't get into my room."

The intruders "went through every drawer and cabinet, opened doors. We assumed they were looking for cash boxes. There was one pouch with milk money in it, but that was minimal, and the checkbook was open on the top of the desk, but they didn't take that. They did take some credit cards, and they went into the office and took a spare laptop. They also had four other laptops, but they set them down outside the door and forgot them, took a couple of iPods that our kindergarteners use to listen to stories for their Mile Monday exercise, and then they saw our new flat screen television in the library. They took that - we'd had that only two months or so before they ripped it off the wall - and I don't know how or if we'll be able to replace it because it was a big splurge for us to put it there in the first place."

The absurdity of the theft is what puzzles Peterman, as taking something as large as a flat screen television could only result in the thief having to hang it on his own wall or somehow sell it, but selling it would come with great difficulty since the authorities are alerted to its removal. He's also frustrated that the thieves caused "a lot of inconvenience and nonsense" through their greed and inconsiderate behavior. "There was no school on Tuesday - I sent that email out and then called everyone to be sure that parents had gotten it, and the staff was very angry."

Peterman admitted that he and the staff experienced that "very un-Christian" anger, but then soon did what had to be done...simply clean up, get on with business and forgive.

"Wednesday the kids came back, and we had chapel service in the morning. We talked with the kids, parents and grandparents about what had happened, that the school had been broken into and violated, that nobody went through students' desks, and that there were some things missing," said Peterman. "Then we called the staff up front, anybody who works at the school, and assured the kids, impressed upon them that it's safe to come to school, then we prayed for the people to be caught and to give up their evil ways, forgave them and went back to class. It was a very typical day today."

Peterman added that the greatest inconvenience of the affair is that of the spiritual kind - knowing that St. Johns as a whole now is locked and unavailable to the seeker who would like to come into the church and pray during the day or night.

"When I came here several years ago, all the doors were unlocked and open, and now, you can't even leave it open so that people have a quiet place to pray," he said.

Given that the thieves had toured the church's sanctuary as well as the school, the staff, congregation, students and their parents felt relief that none of the church or school had been vandalized.

"The first thing that people thought of when they heard was that it was as bad as Root Prairie a couple years ago, but we were very, very fortunate that what they took didn't amount to much and that they didn't vandalize the school and church," he said. "We feel very, very fortunate and blessed."