LEAD | A juvenile who reportedly told friends he was “bored and wanted to break stuff” is suspected by federal investigators in causing thousands of dollars in damage to two historic brick structures near Lead where explosives were once stored for the old Homestake Gold Mine.
Investigators have identified at least five potential suspects — all juveniles — and seized a sledgehammer allegedly used by one of the suspects last year to damage two of the old Homestake Powderhouses.
According to federal court documents unsealed Dec. 6, a Bureau of Land Management ranger seized the “short handled (yellow in color) sledgehammer” after a search warrant was issued on June 8 of this year, for a home and separate garage in Lead where the tool had been allegedly concealed by the unnamed suspect, referred to as “Juvenile One” in the documents.
The home’s address in Lead was also redacted in the documents, which were ordered sealed for 180 days.
The warrant, issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman, followed months of investigation after damage to the Homestake Powderhouses was discovered in late June 2017.
According to the documents Bureau of Land Management employee Ryan Larson first discovered that trees had been cut down outside the powderhouses, and fires had been set inside the buildings.
The intruders had gone so far as to install their own padlocks on three heavy iron and timber doors accessing the building’s interior, where they had stripped away interior wood and used other spare timber and corrugated tin stored inside to fashion a crude bar, complete with a wooden bench seat.
They even added trucked-in tables and black upholstered restaurant booth seats.
“They did a pretty good job constructing the bar, I’ll give them that,” said Brenda Striers of Sturgis, BLM archaeologist.
A second round of vandalism was discovered by BLM biologist Rebecca Newton on Nov. 16, 2017. At least two holes had been knocked in the walls of the powderhouses.
Investigators said interviews conducted later in November 2017 yielded information that led to the identities of suspects, including photo evidence of a late '90s Chevy Blazer driven by one of the juveniles parked at the powderhouse.
BLM spokeswoman Lori “Chip” Kimball said last week investigators are awaiting lab analysis of the sledgehammer.
“This is still an open investigation,” Kimball said. “We’re going to keep moving forward on this.”
“It hurts my heart to see these buildings damaged,” Kimball said in 2017. “They’re beautiful old buildings that are absolutely neat to see."
She said damage to the buildings, estimated at more than $25,000, will be repaired next year.
The mine abandoned the powderhouses in the mid-'60s, when mining practices no longer required dynamite.
The BLM took over management of the historic buildings in 2002, when all mining activity ceased.
A guardhouse converted to a residence near the powder houses had been torn down long ago, but the three remaining buildings had been painstakingly restored in 2008.