Douglas County Sheriff’s officers have arrested two Topeka men suspected of stealing copper from the former Farmland Industries plant Tuesday night.
Sgt. Steve Lewis, a sheriff’s spokesman, said deputies patrolling the property east of Lawrence, at 1608 N. 1400 Road, on foot encountered two men who ran away from them. Deputies caught one suspect, and picked up the other man about three hours later when he was walking next to Kansas Highway 10. Deputies collected evidence indicating the men were attempting to steal copper wire, Lewis said. According to court documents, the suspects attempted to cut wires at an outlet box.
Douglas County prosecutors Tuesday charged the two men, Brian Bragdon, 36, and Ryan Schwinn, 19, with one count each of obstruction, criminal trespassing and theft, all misdemeanor charges.
Lewis said deputies were patrolling the former Farmland plant because of several recent electrical wire thefts.
Lawrence police have taken several reports of copper thefts from air-conditioning units at businesses this summer in the city, and Lewis said rural property owners, farmers and businesses in the county have had problems as well.
Several county cases have involved thefts from electrical contractors’ vehicles or wiring on field equipment for farmers, he said.
“Theft of copper is not only obviously illegal, it is also quite dangerous,” Lewis said. “Copper thieves run the real risk of electrocution when stealing wire and chemical contamination when stealing pipe and tubing.”
Lewis said he was not aware of the two men arrested overnight being suspects in other cases. But he also said suspects usually leave little evidence behind in burglary, theft and criminal damage cases, often making them difficult to solve unless they are stopped in progress.