Authorities arrested a man and woman this week who broke into the Hollister High School Ag Barn and killed two animals that students had fostered and raised for a local educational program.
The suspects allegedly killed a goat and a pig, and carried the pig away in a wheelbarrow that they stole from the barn, says a press release from the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office. The man and woman were found a short time after the crime at a homeless encampment near the San Benito River bed.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the break-in at the Rajcovich Ag Barn, located on the southern campus of Hollister High, on Feb. 6, says the press release. Deputies had responded to a report of a burglary and animal cruelty incident.
High school students and staff had discovered that, during the previous night, suspects had illegally entered the building that houses livestock for the Hollister High Future Farmers of America program, authorities said. The suspects entered the goat and pig pen areas inside the barn and killed both a goat and a pig.
A press release from the San Benito High School District says the incident occurred about 11:30pm Feb. 5. Security camera footage from inside the barn shows that a suspect wielded what appeared to be an ax to break a lock on the barn.
The suspects then used one of the school’s wheelbarrows to haul the pig’s carcass away from the campus, police said. The dead goat was left behind.
The school’s “substantial security measures” helped investigators determine that the suspects had fled south of the campus toward the riverbed, says the press release.
Sheriff’s deputies and detectives, assisted by the District Attorney’s Office and Hollister Police, canvassed the area and located a makeshift homeless camp. At the encampment authorities encountered a man who fit the description of one of the suspects seen on the school’s surveillance cameras, police said.
The man was on probation, which allowed detectives to search him and his belongings, says the press release. Investigators found clothing in the man’s camp consistent with that seen on the school’s security cameras. Also found was unexpended firearm ammunition and “a quantity of drugs,” which the suspect was not allowed to have in his possession because he was on probation.
Deputies continued to search the area around the encampment and found the pig’s carcass hanging from a tree, says the press release. Also found was the high school’s stolen wheelbarrow.
The man and a female suspect were subsequently arrested and booked at San Benito County Jail on suspicion of burglary, animal cruelty, conspiracy and grand theft, according to authorities.
The press release noted that the Hollister PD’s use of its drone during the investigation was instrumental in finding evidence and the suspects.
“We stand committed…to protect our community and its institutions and recognized the loss of the goat and pig was far more substantial than just cost, in (that) those students within the F.F.A worked hard fostering the lost goat and pig,” says the sheriff’s press release.
The FFA students had been raising the goat and pig to show at the Salinas Valley Fair, according to high school staff.
The school’s agriculture department staff noted its thanks to local law enforcement.
“We had a veterinarian on site this morning doing wellness checks on the animals that are on site,” says the school district’s press release. “We have had an outpouring of support from our community for our affected students and their families. We truly appreciate all that have reached out in support of our students.”