MARYSVILLE — It wasn’t the first time someone got the idea to steal copper wire, to make a little money for drugs.
And it wasn’t even the first time someone tried to steal wire from a Marysville radio tower that police, firefighters and 911 dispatchers use to save lives. Security cameras have been there for years, and they’ve been helping to bust theft suspects since at least 2014.
Signs warning of the cameras haven’t stopped some thieves.
A dispatcher, Rose O’Hearn, was watching the live feed around 7 a.m. Dec. 9, when a man in a dark brown canvas jacket appeared on the screen, according to charges filed last week. He was using bolt cutters to snap open a fence topped with razor wire. She sent police to the site off 64th Street NE.
Officers rolled up and heard noises in the trees. Off a trail they found a man, 30, with a black garbage bag for lawn care. In the bag he had a pair of yellow bolt cutters, and in his jacket pocket were socket wrenches that matched the size of the bolts on the tower, according to the charges. His Ford F-150 was parked up the street at a Walmart. Police saw a bong and a torch lighter inside.
Back at the tower, they found feet of copper wires had been stripped, causing up to $10,000 in damage.
Those wires are there for a good reason. During a power surge or a lightning storm, they ground electricity and keep the 911 system from frying.
“It’s the tallest metal fixture out there,” said Ralph Krusey, chief administrative officer of the Snohomish County Emergency Radio System. “It’s a target.”
At first the Lynnwood man denied breaking in. Later, in jail, he admitted to it, according to the charges.
He had four other pending felony cases against him: multiple counts of trafficking in stolen property; burglary; and possessing a stolen Mazda pickup. He was charged last week in another case, where he’s accused of stealing tires and rims from a neighbor.
One of his pending cases was the theft of wire from an AT&T cell tower in 2016. Witnesses saw him running away, tackled him and held him down until police showed up, according to charging papers. He told those officers he was a longtime heroin addict.
Again, after his December arrest, he said he was addicted to drugs, according to court papers. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he was an out-of-work carpenter struggling to find money to care for the child. But he planned to trade these wires for drugs, charges say.
He told police he’d made a “bad mistake.” He was trying to get clean, he continued. That morning at 9 a.m., he had an appointment for treatment. He missed it and went to jail instead.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.