VALRICO — What started as a prank ended with a trip to a juvenile lockup for five teens who admitted to stealing Bloomingdale High's 400-pound bronze bull.
After watching an MTV show about high school pranks, they got the idea to take the bull and hide it until Bloomingdale's football team played Brandon High. The plan: When the players arrived on the field, the bull would be standing on the 50-yard line, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.
The five students, all 16 or 17 years old, attend Brandon and Plant City high schools and Simmons Career Center. Their names are being withheld by the Times because of their ages.
The Sheriff's Office got a tip Wednesday that the bull was at a truck storage yard in Tampa. Someone reported the students to the Sheriff's Office, and the students' parents brought them Thursday to the Juvenile Assessment Center. They said they unbolted the bull from the concrete July 25, loaded it in a pickup truck, covered it with a tarp and took it to property owned by one of the students' relatives.
"They were contrite and apologetic," Callaway said. "All of them said they didn't think it would come to their arrest."
Bloomingdale principal Mark West is glad to have the bull back, but was sorry to hear it was a prank.
Still, he's glad the $8,000 bull wasn't harmed. It was returned to Bloomingdale, but isn't back at its normal spot. Administrators are considering safer locations.
Deputies deal with high school pranks occasionally, mostly at the level of school resource officers, Callaway said. The bull stealing, he added, was more than a prank. The students face a charge of grand theft, which is a felony.
The school district probably won't discipline the students because they were arrested, spokesman Steve Hegarty said.
Deputies believe the students didn't have bad intentions for the statue, which was ordered online by the student government after two years of fundraising. Several of the students and their parents could not be reached Friday for comment.
Bloomingdale teachers talk to the senior class throughout the year about how pranks can be harmful, West said. The MTV show the students watched featured pranks across the country, many of them which resulted in expulsions and criminal charges.
West said he plans to encourage Bloomingdale students not to retaliate.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.