LEWISTON — Kindergartners at Montello Elementary were sworn in as junior investigators Tuesday.

The 38 children joined U.S. Deputy Marshal Ryan Guay and Lewiston police Detective William Brochu in a task force whose mission was to track and capture five gingerbread men.

The goal was for students to act out the classic “Gingerbread Man” story, meet law enforcement officers and get a community lesson on how police do their jobs, said teachers Vicky Cloutier and Kimberly Guay, wife of Ryan Guay.

“Repeat after me,” Guay told the 5- and 6-year-olds. “I do solemnly swear to investigate with all my ability finding the gingerbread men that have escaped,” Guay said. The students repeated the words. “I will look for every crumb or other evidence. I will not eat any evidence that may assist in their capture. I will not be deterred by sly foxes. And I promise to eat the gingerbread men as soon as they are found.”

With that, students stuck on their badges.

Guay motioned to the pictures students had colored. Study them, he said, so they could recognize the suspects. Task force members discussed possible clues. The gingerbread men are brown. They might find brown crumbs.

They’re adorned with sprinkles and candy. One student said she saw sprinkles on the floor. Another saw candy on the ground.

“That’s very typical of them,” Guay said. “They’re messy, messy eaters.”

The group ventured into the hallway. “Remember to be quiet so they don’t hear us coming,” Guay cautioned.

They found a note in a classroom. The gingerbread men were taunting them.

“Everybody circle around. Listen up,” Guay said.

“’Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man,’” Guay read. “’I escaped from my dish and ran to Mrs. Gish.’”

The group agreed they should check the office where Assistant Principal Cindy Gish was working.

One clue led to another. A note in Gish’s office sent them to the gym, where physical education teacher Jason Barriault was leading a class.

No, Barriault had not seen any gingerbread men, he said, but he had a note and brown crumbs.

The case was heating up.

Task force members went to the school’s second floor where the big kids study. Teacher Steve Gagne found another note from the gingerbread men that hinted the suspects were near.

Finally, in Kelly Johnson’s fifth-grade classroom, students pointed to a small tree where a gingerbread man hid behind leaves.

“We finally caught you, Brooklyn!” Guay said as the gingerbread man was taken into custody.

But with four more out there, the children continued the hunt.

In Michelle Agate’s class one was hiding on a bookshelf. They found another in Emily Derouche’s class. Soon, all five gingerbread men were captured. The children cheered.

“This sets an example for any other gingerbread men,” Guay said.

Each student received a “Certified Junior Gingerbread Man Investigator” certificate.

“Congratulations for catching the gingerbread family,” Guay said to applause. “If it weren’t for the gingerbread task force members like yourselves, we would have never caught them.”

Now it was time to eat.

Cloutier said her students were excited to work with police. That included Yasin Abdi, 5. “I’m going to be a police officer,” he said.

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