ELLIJAY, GA – On May 24, 2017, four people appeared on security cameras at Gilmer County High School as they came from the vicinity of Mountain View Elementary School.
Those on the footage proceeded to gain entry to the school at approximately 2:00 am, drug out a milk cooler, a metal shelf, and several smaller items including mops, and leave them in the roadway of Bobcat Trail.
Later identified as Paul Kell Kiker III, Austin Tyler Buntin, Griffin Douglas Cagle, and Noble Zuschlag, the four men continued around the school damaging 23 locks with toothpicks and glue. Three of the men recently graduated from Gilmer High School in 2017 while Zuschlag was a 2016 graduate.
Though appearing in the security footage to have been in possession of a key gaining entry, officials say the suspects told them they did not have keys, but rather that the door was unlocked when they pulled on it.
After gaining entry to a storage room and putting a metal shelving rack in the roadway behind the school, the Incident Report of the School Resource Officer (SRO) investigating stated “another person came outside pulling a dairy cooler, and he and another student put the cooler in the roadway. They then pushed the cooler down the roadway towards South Main Street (Old Hwy 5).”
(Click to Enlarge Documents)
The report also states, “The cooler was found of the side of Bobcat Trail. Apparently, it was severely damaged when it struck the guardrail on the side of the roadway.”
During his investigation, the SRO had three of the Gilmer High School Faculty, Assistant Principal Greg Burrell, Principal Carla Foley, and Interim Athletic Director Terry Luck all watch the footage which resulted in them separately identifying one student as Griffin Cagle.
According to the Officer’s Report, as Cagle was questioned at the Board of Education Offices, he agreed it was him in the video and told the officer the names of the other three students involved.
Tyler Buntin and Kell Kiker individually came to the School Resource Officer’s Office at GHS and agreed to speak with the officer about the incident. “Having already signed the “Miranda Warning” form,” the report states, “they both admitted to their roles in the incident…”
Kiker also admitted they bought the super glue and toothpicks that were put into the 23 locks on school doors reported as damaged. Both students also identified themselves in the security footage.
On May 25, 2017, Noble Zuschlag met the SRO in his office with his father. After being read his “Miranda Rights” Zuschlag stated he wished to speak with Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes first.
With all four involved gathered, the officer states he took them into a conference with Dr. Wilkes and Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley.
Being reminded of the Miranda Rights still applying, all four reportedly apologized to Dr. Wilkes and Principal Foley.
It was at this time that the SRO asked Noble Zuschlag what he was apologizing for since he had never spoken with him. Zuschlag did admit to not only participating in the act, but specifically identifying himself with details about his attire and actions in the incident.
On May 31, 2017, the officer issued a summons for each of the four involved and met with them to explain the summons and their mandatory appearance in Superior Court, set for June 13, 2017.
Since then, the students have been accepted into the “Youthful Offender Pre-Trial Diversion Program” and agreed to certain terms. If they should violate any of the terms the agreement states it will “result in the case being referred to prosecution for not only the offense of Disrupting Operations of a Public School, but for all other criminal offense that may have arisen from the act(s) that is/are the basis for the above stated citation.”
As a part of the agreement, a summary of those terms agreed to include:
- Submitting to written or oral requests from certain officials to produce a breath, spittle, urine, and/or blood specimen for testing of presence of prohibited substances including alcohol.
- Designated and random drug screenings on specified dates by Appalachian Pre-Trial and Probation and the Office of the District Attorney.
- Submitting to searches by a Probation Officer or Law Enforcement Officer at any time with or without search warrants and to the use of any items seized as evidence in revoking this Agreement or any other criminal/civil proceeding.
- No drug usage without a physician’s prescription and submission of all prescription’s to the District Attorney’s Office for inspection and copy. The Office must also be notified of all medical and dental appointments, whether routine or emergency. Prescriptions must also be presented to the office before ingestion along with the information of the medical provider who prescribed the medication. No ingestion of alcohol in any form, energy pills, energy drinks, steroids, or any other mood altering substance.
- No other violations of the law and immediate notification of any new arrests.
- Enrollment of a designated college or university while maintaining daily attendance (unless medically excused by a treating physician) and provision of school records to include final grades at the end of each term.
- Maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA.
- No disciplinary reports at school.
If drug tested at Appalachian Pre-Trial and Probation, a $5.00 payment for each drug test given. If drug tested at another location, the Accused bears the full costs and provides the results to the District Attorney’s Office. Also, immediate attendance to the designated location is required or the test result is automatically positive.
- Required residence with parents when not at college, and required residence in campus dormitory when at college. Campus physical and mailing address shall be provided to the DA’s office as well as notice of any changes in address within 72 hours.
When not at college, must be within parent’s residence between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am unless physically accompanied by a parent.
- Obey all lawful commands by parents.
- Avoid persons or places of disreputable character.
- 200 hours of community service within 12 months with at least 100 within the Gilmer County School System, the balance of hours completed at discretion of Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Director and Gilmer County Community Service supervisor, and attempts made to complete work by August 2017.
- No maintaining, initiating, creating, posting, participating or any presence on social media sites or accounts for six months as well as immediate deactivation of current accounts. This includes appearing in other people’s posts even if not specifically tagged or identified. Violations automatically extend the period by six months.
- Payment to the Gilmer County School System equal to one-fourth of the restitution owed for damages within 12 months and proof of payment provided to the DA’s Office.
While the original length of the agreement is set at 12 months, violations of these terms could result in extending the length of the program, addition, deletion, or modification of the terms, or termination of the program with prosecution to follow.
Upon completion of the program, the Office of the District Attorney agrees to dismiss the citation and waive prosecution on other criminal offenses.
Still, others state that more questions remain. No specifics have been delivered about whether or not the four had a key to the school. While officials report the students said the door was open, no other discussion or report has offered more information.
If the door was open, then who left it open? Is there an investigation going as to why it was left open?