Hartford Man Apologizes for Stealing Copper off Cell Tower
FBI finds numerous aliases
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A Hartford father of three who confessed to climbing up a cell tower in Plainfield in mid-July and stealing expensive copper pieces wrote a poignant apology saying that he did so because, even though he’d just been hired by Vermont’s highway department, he hadn’t yet received his first paycheck from his new job and he was hard up for cash.
“I was wrong and am ashamed of my actions,” Ashantii Shakur, 49, of Wilder wrote in a sworn statement given to Hartford Police detectives on July 16th, “I allowed my lapse of good judgement to lead me to commit an act of theft. I admit my guilt and I alone committed this terrible act against the lawful property of another and for this I am more than sorry. I intend to make whole the damage I caused,” Shakur concluded.
Shakur is now facing a felony count of selling stolen property, a charge which carries a maximum potential penalty of up to ten years in prison. This past week he entered an innocent plea to the charge at the courthouse in downtown White River Junction after which he was released on personal recognizance.
Police said Shakur confessed to unscrewing nearly a dozen heavy copper “grounding bus bars” that cost AT&T nearly $500 apiece and then passing them off as scrap at a local recycler which gave him $80 in cash for the lot.
Plainfield, New Hampshire police had tipped off Hartford authorities the day before that their suspect was a black male with a beard who’d been seen at the remote cell tower site driving a black SUV with Vermont plates. Hartford Police Sgt. Jay Pedro wrote in his report that, “on numerous occasions while patrolling the Town of Hartford,” he’d seen Shakur driving a vehicle matching the description.
Hartford Police Detective Chris Aher checked with Evergreen Recycling on July 15th and found five copper bus bars in their copper scrap bin which employees were able to trace back to Shakur with the aid of handwritten receipts.
Police spotted Shakur outside his residence the next day and stopped to talk to him, Sgt. Pedro recalled, writing that when Shakur was first questioned about the thefts, “He was very evasive when answering, even when confronted with photographs of the bars…and the receipt bearing his name.”
Police then searched Shakur’s residence, finding a drill kit on the porch which Sgt. Pedro said Shakur later admitted he’d used to unscrew the plates from the cellular towers and, in a cupboard in the hallway, they found five more grounding bus bars, one of which was stamped “Property of AT&T.”
Sgt. Pedro said that when police entered Shakur’s fingerprints into a national crime database they also got a surprise.
“Upon running Shakur’s criminal history I learned that he has used numerous alias, dates of birth, and social security numbers (in the past) including `Jerome Aldermann’ and `Jimmy Grijalava,’…a total of 19 in all,” the sergeant wrote, noting that Shakur has convictions in Massachusetts, New York and North Carolina under various names for felony possession of a forged instrument, damaging property, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun.
The previous felony conviction became important, Sgt. Pedro said, when during the search of Shakur’s bedroom he also found a black hard case containing a set of antique .40 and .45 caliber pistols and several rounds of ammunition.
“Shakur stated that he had received the pistol from a friend whom he did not want to name approximately seven weeks ago, but he had not been able to operate it,” Sgt. Pedro wrote, adding, “He later stated that he had gone into the woods to shoot it but could not figure out how to open the action to load it.”
The sergeant said it appeared that Shakur’s prior felony conviction and his sentence of over two years for the sawed-off shot gun would make him ineligible to possess any firearms and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was notified of the find.
Hartford Police Detective Kristinnah Adams said that she also interviewed Shakur and he told her “that he has been out of a job but in the past he has worked for telecommunication companies in New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.”
Adams said that Shakur eventually admitted to her “that he is hard up for cash, that he has not yet received his first paycheck from VTRANS, and that he had in fact stolen the bus bars from the Plainfield, NH cell tower…(and) that he picked that location because he had the coordinates to the cell tower site and he had worked there in the past.”
“I asked Shakur why he did not trade all of the bus bars for cash (and) Shakur advised there were several reasons why but mostly he felt bad and he was scared he would get caught. (He said) this is the only time he has ever stolen bus bars (and that he told the recycler) they were left over scraps from his job site.”
“Shakur was briefly questioned regarding the .45 caliber Leinad Model D pistol which was located in his residence during the search,” Detective Adams continued, writing that Shakur, “maintained that the pistol was not his, that he was holding it for a friend (and) he did not want to give the man’s name as he is a good guy and one of his only friends.”
“Shakur admitted that he knows he is a convicted felon and that he is not legally allowed to be in possession of a firearm,” Adams wrote, adding that Shakur also told her, “I thought it was different in Vermont because you can vote here.”