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Witness keys arrest of burglar, police say

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Police knocked on a burglar's door but were unable to enter and arrest the man until they got a warrant two days later with the help of a witness, Charleston police said Tuesday.

"It's very important that we get tips from the community," said Sgt. Tony Hazelett. "With larcenies, they know their neighborhood better than we do. If they feel there's something suspicious going on, we encourage them to call the police. Sometimes a minor tip leads to a major arrest."

In the case of Nicholas Jackson, 46, whom police arrested Thursday, a theft report from sculptor Joe Mullins and an account from a witness ended a recent string of burglaries in the East End.

Mullins said he had just bought a small generator, which he needed for a job restoring a tombstone at Spring Hill Cemetery.

"I'd used it for about five hours, put it in the back of my truck. I didn't have it chained," Mullins said. "This guy comes around at 4 in the morning. I think he's a real pro. I wake up, it's gone. I had a couple of lines over it. He cut them."

A longtime East End resident who knows many of his neighbors, Mullins said he spotted an acquaintance coming down the street that morning. "It was around 6:30. I jokingly ask him, 'Where's my generator?' He says, 'It's on Shelton Street, apartment A.'

"The policeman comes by. He goes over there, knocks on the door, goes away."

Mullins ran into East End City Councilman Robert Sheets the next day. Sheets called police to see what more they could do. Investigators met with the witness Mullins talked to.

"The citizen was able to give us a description and a nickname of the suspect who was trying to sell the generator," Hazelett said.

"We were able to put that in our database and come up with a name -- Nicholas Jackson. We were able to obtain a warrant and search his East End residence. We found several stolen items."

Among them was a set of tools. Police walked through Jackson's neighborhood, asking if anyone had lost a certain brand of tools. One man said he had tools like that in his garage, Hazelett said. But after looking at the tools at Jackson's home, he said, "Those are my tools right there." He didn't know they'd been stolen.

Police recovered Mullins' generator too.

"We had a lot of equipment in [Jackson's] house that we were able to return to their owners," Hazelett said.

"We found other people who had lost items who didn't report to police," he said. "We encourage all people to report so we can develop a pattern.

"A lot of times it's hard to get people to come forward. But if people want to remain anonymous, we'll take those calls too. In these days, it's easy for people to not get involved. But there are people willing to help catch these thieves."

Mullins said he had no problem coming forward.

"I think it's a matter of citizen involvement and persistence," he said. "We can rid our community of these types of criminals."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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