When lunches started to go missing from a Missouri city hall fridge, the engineering employees noticed.
They also noticed loose change starting to disappear and a set of missing city-owned car keys, Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes with the Washington, Missouri, Police Department told The Wichita Eagle.
But it wasn’t a coworker who lost the key fob that needed to be replaced or who was eating all the food, police said.
Rather, it was a homeless man who officers “had been dealing with regularly for the last month or two,” Sitzes told the Eagle.
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But he was never caught sneaking into the engineering department of city hall or taking food from the refrigerator. He actually had gone unnoticed for about two weeks, Sitzes said.
That all ended when a “concerned citizen” saw a man “driving recklessly” in a city-owned vehicle, Sitzes said. That person took a photo of the car — and of the driver — and forwarded it to city administration officials on Monday.
The driver wasn’t an employee or someone who should have access to the car, Sitzes said. The department began to investigate, and several officers were able to identify the man as 24-year-old Justin Beckmann.
At that point, Sitzes said they were not sure how Beckmann would have got keys to the car, and they considered that maybe an employee gave him access.
On Wednesday, officers arrested Beckmann on suspicion of tampering with a motor vehicle that he was not authorized to drive, Sitzes said. That’s when they found out what had been going on.
In an interview with police, Beckmann admitted he was homeless and one night went to sleep in a stairwell at the Washington City Hall. That stairwell led to a door — a door that had a key in the lock, Sitzes said.
With the key, he entered the engineering department and slept right inside the door, Sitzes said. He left before the engineering employees got back the next morning.
That routine continued for a couple weeks, he told police.
“He admitted to stealing quarters, keys and food kept in the fridge,” Sitzes said. Then, when he was bored, he said he took the city car, according to police.
Sitzes told the Eagle that employees reported the info about missing food and keys once the investigation began.
“Weird things were occurring, but nobody could put it together until after he was caught,” Sitzes told the eMissourian, which first reported on the story.
Beckmann has since been booked into jail with a $15,000 bond. He has been charged with felony burglary, felony tampering with a motor vehicle and misdemeanor stealing.
More charges are pending, Sitzes said.
No employee or citizen info was compromised, Sitzes said, as Beckmann could not gain access to other parts of city hall.