UNICOI - A Johnson City man who allegedly attempted to take copper from a Unicoi County business was arrested Wednesday by the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department.
Roger Allen Killen, 24, 190 Miller Ave., Johnson City, was charged with theft of property under $500, felony vandalism over $1,000 and felony reckless endangerment.
According to the arrest report written by UCSD Capt. Ron Arnold, on Sunday, the owner and an employee of Wiseman's Clothing Store came to work and, as they exited their vehicle, noticed the "strong odor of natural gas." Once inside the business, they again noticed the odor of natural gas. The report states the odor was so strong inside the store that the owner and employee "had to open doors and step outside."
The Wiseman's employee went to sit on a bench adjacent to the store. According to the report, a Buick with a partially opened trunk lid was parked in front of the bench.
"Thinking this was strange, she wrote down the tag number, then she observed a male subject come from around the building," the report states. "And as she spoke to him, he appeared very startled and was wet from the rain. He then jumped in his vehicle and took off."
Further investigation at the scene revealed a bucket containing copper pipe. The owner also discovered that around 50 feet of copper piping had been taken off building, according to the report. The report states this piping supplies gas to the store's heat pump from a propane tank.
"There was 70 to 80 gallons of natural gas lost and estimated approximately $2,300 in labor and replacing the pipe," the arrest report states. "Due to the actions of the subject in damaging the gas lines the escaping gas posed a danger of explosion to the employees and customers at the business and the general public passing by."
Arnold said Thursday that investigators followed on the report from the Wiseman's employees, and this investigation led to Killen. A warrant for Killen's arrest was issued Tuesday. After he was taken into custody on Wednesday, Killen confessed to taking the copper piping from the business, Arnold said.
Killen appeared in Unicoi County General Sessions Court on Thursday, where a $2,000 corporate bond was set. He scheduled to next appear in Sessions Court on June 20.