Copper burglary suspect arrested in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth city councilman confronted and photographed a burglary suspect as he was stealing materials from an old school building on Friday.

Monday, police announced the arrest of Arthur Bellamy, 52, of Norfolk. Bellamy is charged with burglary, grand larceny, felony destruction of property and assault.

Arthur Bellamy, photo courtesy Portsmouth Police.
Arthur Bellamy, photo courtesy Portsmouth Police.

Councilman Danny Meeks’s company, Empire Services, is demolishing the old Cradock High School building on George Washington Highway. So, Friday morning he and an employee, Lamont Boyd, were doing a walk through when Meeks noticed the door to the school’s gym was propped open in an odd way.

The two found piles of copper piping propped by the door that wasn’t there the night before. Then they were walking down a hallway when an unknown man came around the corner.

“When I looked up, there was a man coming out of one of the rooms,” said Boyd, a demolition operator. “So Danny backed up because he had a crow bar in his hand.”

Meeks let the suspect make his way out of the building without incident and then yelled for Boyd to call the police. Officers were called to the site around 11 a.m., according to Det. Misty Holley with the Portsmouth Police Department.

Meeks’ project manager, Bill Underwood, arrived as officers started asking questions and learned what happened. He told Meeks followed the suspect as he crossed George Washington Highway.

“Danny followed him,” Underwood said. “And the guy stopped and he took a hammer out of his bag.”

The suspect raised a hammer as Meeks got closer once again. The city councilman snapped a picture of the suspect, which police distributed to the public in hopes that someone would recognize him.

“We’ve lost $3,000,” said Underwood of the amount of copper stolen. “But we’ve also lost production on our job site.”

Meeks said his company will get the demolition permit for Cradock High School next week. The building will most likely be torn down in the next two to three weeks.

Detectives inspected the building and found the following items piled near an exit, appearing to have been staged for removal from the building: stainless steel sinks, copper piping, copper wiring and other metals.

After going through the building and surrounding property, Underwood said the suspect cut the chain and lock off the front gate to get into the school. He said mostly copper wiring was stolen and they believe the suspect was waiting to load the copper pipes next.

Police say no one had permission to be inside or remove anything from the building.

The suspect was described as a black man with brown eyes, black hair, a beard and a mustache. He appeared to be in his 40s and was approximately 5’11” tall and weighed about 280 pounds. He was wearing a black and red baseball cap and black shirt. Meeks said he escaped the area by jumping into the passenger seat of a black Chevrolet pick up truck.

Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

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