ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A 60-year-old man is accused of trying to steal copper wire from a light rail station in St. Paul and causing nearly $20,000 in damage, according to charges filed Thursday in Ramsey County Court.
Brian John Peterson was charged with four felony counts of first-degree criminal damage to property and one count of possessing burglary or theft tools in connection with the incident.
According to a criminal complaint, police were called to the St. Paul light rail station being constructed on University Avenue near Berry Street at about 1:22 a.m. Wednesday on a report of a theft in progress. When authorities arrived, a witness told police that a man was using a cutting tool to cut something off of the light rail station being built in the area.
The witness also said the man was carrying several backpacks and walking towards the bus station at the intersection of University Avenue and Berry Street. Authorities located the man, later identified as Peterson, and the bags. Police said there were several pieces of copper cable and heavy gauge insulated wiring sticking out of the bags, according to the complaint.
Peterson admitted that the bags were his but said they were garbage that had been thrown out.
A superintendent with the light rail project got to the scene and identified the copper in Peterson’s possession as material that had been used to help build the light rail station at that location. The superintendent said the copper wire that was missing was worth as much as $300, and that the damaged caused to each area was at least $5,000 for a total damage of about $20,000, the complaint states.
The superintendent said copper wire was missing and had been cut from at least four areas. When later interviewed by police, Peterson admitted to cutting the copper wire from the four areas because he wanted to recycle them for money.
If convicted on all charges, Peterson faces up to 23 years in prison and $43,000 in fines.