A firefighter in Republic has been charged with burglary and theft after allegedly stealing $2,000 worth of trees and shrubs from a Nixa garden center.
According to the probable cause statement, Brian W. Copeland, 30, Republic, allegedly stole several trees and shrubs July 18th from Garden Adventures Nursery in Nixa after he was dissatisfied with the way the business handled a recent transaction and wanted "revenge."
Copeland allegedly told the management of the garden center that he was buying the shrubs and trees on behalf of City of Republic. When owner James Whiting called the city to get their tax ID number he was told that Copeland was not a representative of the city, and not authorized to make purchases on their behalf.
When Whiting arrived at his business early Sunday morning he noticed tire tracks that went around his security gate and several items missing.
Whiting told authorities he received a tip from one of his clients, who owns a lawn care business, early the same day who said he thought the stolen plants had been planted in a yard at 1708 E. Miller Road in Republic.
Whiting said he drove by the house and believed the trees and shrubs that were freshly planted, some still with price tags from his business attached to them, were the ones stolen from his business and called police.
Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek says law enforcers tracked Copeland today (07-20-10) at the Republic Fire Department, where he was mirandized and willingly spoke to authorities.
Cleek says that Copeland told Detective Brad Cole that someone else named "Jamie" was using his truck at the time of the theft before allegedly admitting that he lied.
The city administrator for the City of Republic, Jim Krischke says, "Copeland is on leave pending the outcome of our internal investigation."
Copeland is expected him to be booked into the Christian County Jail tonight and held on $7,500 bond.
UPDATE: A warrant has been issued for Copeland's arrest, who has hired an attorney and will turn himself into the court sometime in the morning according to Republic police Detective John Davis.
When asked why Copeland wasn't arrested after he admitted to the theft, Detective Cole said, "We were busy investigating other crimes too. If it had been a crime against a person I guess we would have. "
Late this afternoon (07-21-10) Cleek said that Copeland, and his attorney Nancy Price, appeared before Associate Circuit Court Judge John Waters. Waters arraigned Copeland and released him on his own recognizance. He was not booked or fingerprinted.