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Items taken from players’ lockers during football scrimmage

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At least five electronics items worth at least $600 owned by Greenwood Community High School football players have been reported missing from the visitors locker room at Columbus North High School, Columbus police said.

The theft was believed to have occurred while the Greenwood football team was scrimmaging Friday night against host Columbus North, police said.

An inventory was still being compiled Monday, but at least four members of the Greenwood Woodmen team had valuables taken such as smartphones and tablets, Columbus Police Department spokesman Sgt. Matt Harris said.

Greenwood athletics director Pete Huse and football coach Mike Campbell were continuing efforts to determine if additional items were taken.

The team from northern Johnson County arrived in plenty of time to dress and prepare in the physical education locker room connected to Memorial Gym before the 7 p.m. scrimmage, North athletics director Jeff Hester said.

The thefts were discovered about 9 p.m., Harris said. Hester said Campbell notified him of the incident about a half-hour later.

It’s standard practice during scrimmages and games to give the coach of the visiting team a key to secure the locker room, Hester said. A key was provided to a Greenwood coach, and there was no sign of forced entry to the locker room, he said.

But there are two doors that lead into the locker room, and while the main door was locked, it’s possible the secondary entrance inadvertently was left unlocked, Harris said.

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The break-in of the locker room at the physical education complex connected to Memorial Gym at Columbus North High School took place between 7 and 9 p.m. Friday, police said.

People who are able to provide information that might help in the investigation are urged to contact Columbus Police Department at 376-2600.

“The coaching staff had a key to the outside door (of the locker room). The person locked the outside door but couldn’t get the inside door to lock,” Huse said.

Greenwood players and coaches were bothered upon hearing items were missing.

“They were upset. Angry. Irritated. It’s an unfortunate part of when you go places. Certainly (Columbus North) is doing its due diligence to resolve this matter,” Campbell said.

Columbus North student resource officer Eric Stevens, who is heading the investigation, is working with fellow officers to examine surveillance video and interview potential witnesses, Harris said.

Although thefts from high school athletics concession stands are not uncommon, this is the only time in his seven years at Columbus North where thieves targeted a team’s locker room, Hester said.

“This isn’t something that happens often, thankfully,” Hester said. “But I know it happens at other schools and that it happened here at North at least once.”

Hester was referring to an incident on Oct. 16, 1998, when someone entered the Bull Dogs’ locker room during a game, pried the locks off lockers and took more than $100 from the players.

Because of the ongoing criminal investigation, the school is withholding additional details about the break-in, assistant principal John Green said.

“Unfortunately, every school has bad eggs and bad experiences,” Huse said.

Any policy changes regarding locker room security will be determined by Hester, his assistants and head football coach Tim Bless, Green said.

The outcome of the investigation and whether suspects are caught will determine the school’s financial liability for the loss and whether insurance will cover it, Green said.

There were no other activities going on at the North athletics facility when the thefts occurred, and there are no additional security measures being implemented at this time, Hester said.

Huse said the incident will change Greenwood’s approach when it plays home games beginning with Friday’s season-opener against Perry Meridian.

“I have been locking the doors; but just based on stories like this, I’m going to give the opponent a key and start letting them lock their own doors,” he said.

The Daily Journal, a sister newspaper to The Republic, assisted with this report.

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