Prank could bring charges

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Harlem High School's missing mascot was headed for home Friday, sporting a few nicks and a rival's colors.

Police say several Thomson High students suspected of stealing, then painting the $4,000 fiberglass bulldog might face more than a trip to the doghouse.

Capt. Steve Morris, of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, said Friday charges are pending against several students. They are believed to have taken the mascot from the Harlem campus, repainting it Thomson High's black and gold colors, then placing it on the roof of Thomson High School, where it was discovered Friday morning.

"No decision has been made on prosecution. We expect a decision on Monday," Capt. Morris said.

The Harlem and Thomson football teams clashed on the gridiron Friday at The Brickyard in the annual homecoming game for Thomson High, also known as the Bulldogs.

Alan Griffin, Harlem High's principal, said the mascot was taken about 2 a.m. Wednesday and a note that read, "Wal-Mart Mafia" was left in its place.

Mark Petersen, the McDuffie County school system superintendent, said he learned about 11 a.m. Friday that a fiberglass bulldog had been placed on the school rooftop next to the band room.

Dr. Petersen said the mascot appeared to be damaged, but he could not say whether it happened during the theft.

"Those involved will face school punishment and could face criminal charges is my understanding," Dr. Petersen said.

Capt. Morris said several Thomson students were questioned about the incident and six suspects - all Thomson students - were involved in some way.

He said the bulldog recently had been refurbished at a cost of several hundred dollars.

Morris News Service's Billy Hobbs contributed to this story.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

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