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Tesh shaken by threats

Staff Writer | August 27, 2020 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Police said they have an “investigative lead” in connection to death threats and vandalism that forced Tesh, Inc. to close and left employees shaken.

The nonprofit that offers rehabilitative services was the target of extensive graffiti and threatening voicemails over three days, most directed toward one employee.

Sunday night or early Monday, and again the next day, someone spray painted profanities and threats of violence and other markings on walls, walkways, the parking lot, doors, dumpsters and vehicles. They turned off power to the main building on Industrial Loop that result in some flooding damage, and also tried to break in.

“It has been a rough ride,” said Terri Johnson, Tesh vice president, who said two more threatening, expletive-filled voicemails were left Wednesday morning.

The employee targeted by the threats is not at Tesh and is safe, Johnson said.

Employees and volunteers were cleaning up the damage Wednesday, scrubbing, scrapping, painting and using a high-pressure washer to remove the graffiti.

Tesh was forced to close Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and staff members are on edge. Johnson said some were shaken “pretty badly.”

In her 21 years with Tesh, she’s never seen anything like this.

“It’s just not right,” she said.

Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Dave Hagar said investigators made contact with an “investigative lead” Wednesday and are working with other agencies on the case.

Johnson said Tesh officials are discussing improved security, but fences around the property’s boundary and cameras are expensive, and the nonprofit, already hurt financially by the fallout from the coronavirus, has limited resources.

Volunteers, staff and parents united to clean up the grounds on a sunny Wednesday, and more have offered to help.

“We have been blessed by all of that,” Johnson said.

Charlie Gay worked with a pressure washer, blasting away at graffiti near the front door.

His company, Northwest Medical Transport, brings clients to Tesh.

“We just wanted to help out,” he said. “It’s just so sad. It’s really unbelievable.”

Tesh employee Rene Roach was trying to wipe away graffiti on the dumpster. That someone would vandalize the site and threaten a person who works there, she said, was frightening.

“I’m just like in shock that somebody would go this far,” she said.

“This is really something I’m not too familiar with,” Roach continued. “It’s a little scary for me to think somebody is out there and he can still come back.”

Frances Huffman, Tesh CEO, said while she feels victimized, she understands that everyone has their own issues, history and scars.

“My thought is, this is a person who is really messed up, really hurting, really not OK,” she said.

She said what happened not only scared people, but left a mess that had to be cleaned up and forced Tesh to stop serving clients who are there Monday to Friday.

Huffman said one incident like this in 45 years can’t change what they do, which is help people working toward independent living and receive employment training.

“Do I think we need to build a fortress? No,” she said. “A higher level of awareness and preparedness? Yes.”

Huffman said they are thankful for the “tremendous amount of community support” they have have always received from the community.

“We have a lot to protect here,” she said.