REDDING – A man from Shasta Lake had a pretty elaborate scheme going to enrich himself with copper. He fashioned himself some 3-pronged grappling hooks and tied them to knotted ropes. Launching them over the roofline in the back of commercial buildings, he would apparently climb up to the roof. Then, using his skills as an electrician, and with pipe cutting tools, he would remove all the copper tubing and material from the air conditioning systems. After filling a large bag with tubing, wire, and his tools, he would sling it over his back, and descend to his waiting car, leaving the grappling hook behind hanging from the building,
His scheme, however, fell apart, thanks to observant patrol officers. According to the Redding Police, their officers in the area noticed a suspicious vehicle parked behind the Joann Fabric Store on Dana Drive Monday morning at 8:48. This area is usually not visible unless you are behind the store, as it faces the freeway on-ramp and is partly hidden by brush along the side of the freeway. The officers, however, saw an unoccupied car alone in the small alleyway, and decided to check it out.
When they ran a check on the license plate, they found the plate belonged to a different vehicle. Alerted that it may be a stolen car, they observed it from a distance. Soon a man with a bag approached the car and got in. They stopped him, and identified him as Phillip Royce Hampsten Jr., 38-years-old of Shasta Lake. An electrician, Hampsten once worked for Advantage Electric in Redding, according to his Facebook page.
When asked about the car, Hampsten told them he had borrowed it for the day, which turned out to be the truth. But as they were discussing the car, the officers noticed the knotted rope hanging from the back of the building. On inspection, the bag he had been carrying was found to be filled with copper tubing and his tools. A further search of the roof revealed where the grappling hook had found a steel pipe to hook onto. 360 feet of copper tubing had been neatly cut free of the rooftop air conditioners. The total damages are still being investigated, but will likely be in the thousands of dollars in material and repair costs.
The investigation moved on to a motel room where Hampsten was found to be staying. Another home made grappling hook and a supply of copper wire was found. After questioning him, Hampsten was determined to be the suspect in a theft of copper tubing from the roof of the Shasta County District Attorney’s office that occurred on July 15.
Hampsten was arrested and charged with grand theft, felony vandalism possession of stolen property, possession of burglars tools, and violations of his probation. The District Attorney’s office, who may have had a few extra hot days this summer due to Hampsten’s activities on their roof, will no doubt be just a bit more enthusiastic as they prosecute the case against him.