WALNUT — Sheriff’s investigators Thursday returned 11 recovered laptop computers and a projector to C.J. Morris Elementary School, which had 47 computers and other equipment stolen in a break-in earlier this month.
Winston Burt, 19, Trajon Thomas, 19, Jovan Hughes, 27, and Ibrahim Brown, 28, have been booked on suspicion of burglary and receiving stolen property in connection with the crime, officials said. Authorities have recovered 11 of the 47 stolen laptops, and one of 11 stolen LCD projectors.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we were able to recover these,” Capt. David Halm of the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station said. “Today, we’re proud to return these computers and projector to the students.”
Detectives continued working to find the rest of the stolen equipment.
“We’re still following up on other leads,” the captain said.
The machines were stolen from C. J. Morris Elementary School, 19875 Calle Baja, in the early morning hours of May 5, investigators said.
The school had just recently launched its “One-2-One Laptop Program,” in which every third-grader in the school receives an Apple MacBook to use for the rest of their elementary school years, principal Susan Arzola said.
“Apparently, (the suspects) found out about the One-2-One Program,” she said.
Following the break-in, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies pulled over a car in Moreno Valley containing Burt, Thomas, Brown and nine of the stolen computers, Halm said.
Further investigation over the next few days led authorities to identify and arrest Hughes in connection with the case and recover two more computers, an LCD projector and several violins officials said may have been stolen from music schools in Orange County.
Investigators declined to release the cities of residency of the suspects, citing the ongoing investigation.
Students were disappointed to learn the laptops they’d helped fund-raise to get had been stolen when they arrived at school on May 5, the principal said.
“We had to explain that bad guys came into our school and took things that didn’t belong to them,” Arzola said.
At nearly $1,500 each, the total loss from the burglary was estimated at well over $60,000, Arzola added.
Walnut Mayor Tony Cartagena said he was glad to see the learning equipment being returned to the classrooms.
“We take great pride in providing to our youth quality education,” the mayor said. “During these tough times, it is important that we recover these computers.”
If the remaining computers aren’t recovered, she said, the school is making plans to replace the stolen machines through renewed fund-raising efforts, such as Friday ice cream sales and the “Matador March” fundraiser.
“Whatever it takes, that’s our mantra,” Arzola said.
Anyone interested in making a donation to help replenish the school’s computers can make check’s payable to the Walnut Unified School District, 880 S. Lemon Avenue in Walnut, and indicate that the funds are for C.J. Morris Elementary School.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact Detective Chris Wargo at (909) 595-2264, ext. 3014.