by Sherry Goodyear
SPRINGER — If asked, most residents of Springer would’ve said that it is a safe, quiet place to live, but that perception was shattered in the wee morning hours of Friday, January 15, 2016. The Springer Market, located on Maxwell Avenue, was receiving its tri-weekly bread delivery when the truck driver realized the glass in the windows of the two front doors were broken out, and all the plate glass windows along the front of the building had holes in them. Suspecting gunfire to be the source of the broken windows, the driver immediately called 911.
Officer Jessica Medina was the lone officer on duty when the call came in, so she asked Municipal Judge Lance Lacey to accompany her to the store. Store owners, Bud and Cindy Valentine were also called, and the investigation into what exactly had happened began.
The front doors of the grocery store were shattered. According to Mr. Valentine, they found glass all over the sidewalk in front of the store, but it was also tracked around the store, into the alley, and for many blocks away. Evidently when the perpetrators crawled through those windows, broken bits of glass clung to their clothes, and dropped like breadcrumbs as they made their getaway. Broken glass wasn’t all the thieves left in their wake. Several packages of stolen meat were also dropped: one behind the grocery store, one behind the Valentine’s house a couple of blocks away, and one in the alley behind the police station — a Hansel and Gretel trail down Colbert Street.
It wasn’t until the sun came up on the day of the crime that the store owners began to realize just how much damage had been done, because the meat thieves hadn’t contained their destruction to gaining access to the food they wanted to steal — they also went on a vandalistic rampage, breaking all the windows in the Springer Market, and then breaking windows in Potter’s Beauty and Antique Shop next door, and in Two Feather’s Restaurant on the corner, as well as across the street in the Brown Hotel, where windows in the top story had been broken out. In addition, it took awhile for investigators to realize it wasn’t a gun that had done the damage, but rather hammers, one of which was found in a nearby dumpster. Roy Ackerman, who owns the vacant Brown Hotel, discovered the vandals had broken out a window in the back of the hotel. Once the vandals gained access, they went through the hotel, ripping a sink fixture off the wall and breaking various light fixtures before smashing several windows out in the second story of the building.
“If I could use one word to describe all of this,” Mr. Valentine said, “It would be ‘senseless’”. His wife refused to comment because she is so disturbed by the devastation. So far just how much money it is going to cost to replace the windows in the four buildings the vandals struck remains to be seen, but the low estimate is somewhere in the $20-25K range. “If it was just an issue of them being hungry,” Valentine continued, “All they had to do was ask me for some meat, and I would have given it to them. I have done that before. Why did they have to destroy everything?”
To help deal with the aftermath of the destruction, Rodney Hood and his crew from H and H Meat Packing Plant west of town came as soon as they received word of the vandalism, and brought sheets of wafer board and covered up all the broken windows until they can be replaced. Valentine said it was a great help because he thought he would have to make a trip to Raton to buy supplies, but here came Hood with the items necessary to cover up the damage.
In a time when small towns like Springer are economically struggling, it is anybody’s guess just what these vandals/ thieves were thinking on that cold January night. Stealing meat is one thing, as is breaking one window to gain access to that meat, but the idea of these perpetrators going on a hammer welding rampage just for the heck of it makes those who try their hand at running a business shudder at the disrespect and inability to understand just what business owners go through to make their often struggling businesses succeed. The sheer monetary damage they caused is bad enough, but with boarded up store fronts, the owners of these businesses are reeling at how quickly Springer’s pleasant main street façade was given the appearance of a war zone. So far those responsible for single-handedly destroying the face of Springer’s Main Street are still at large.
Springer Vandalism Damage Estimates Up to $25,000
by Sherry Goodyear