A 33-year-old man was stopped recently driving away from a Finley school in the middle of the night.
Hours later, after employees found a broken lock on a school storage unit, he was accused of stealing $20,000 in tools.
Jeremy A. Fannin has pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree burglary and first-degree possessing stolen property. His trial is set for Jan. 28.
According to court documents, sheriff’s Sgt. John Thompson was patrolling near the school at 12:23 a.m. Nov. 28 when he noticed a truck leave 37208 South Finley Road. That area of the school is not typically traveled late at night.
Thompson saw objects sticking out of the bed of the truck, and turned his car around to get the truck’s license plate.
At that point, the truck sped up and drove through a stop sign, documents said. Something fell out of the back of the truck as it went around a corner and sparked when the item hit the ground.
Thompson caught up to the truck and stopped it. Fannin was behind the wheel, then got out and “appeared as if he was going to flee,” court documents said.
Fannin was arrested for driving with a suspended license. A search found he had two flashlights, a wrench and multiple screw drivers in his sweatshirt, documents said.
Deputies retrieved the item that had fallen out of the truck.
He claimed he was trying to get away from Thompson because of his driver’s license status.
Thompson took pictures of the items he could see in the pickup’s bed. Later that day, Deputy Jason Gilbert showed the photos to school staff, who identified the property as pieces of a Torchmate 2 plasma cutter that were missing from a storage unit.
Staff also told Gilbert the piece that fell out of Fannin’s truck was a part of the stolen plasma cutter, court documents said.
Gilbert discovered footprints in the dirt near the storage unit, and said they matched the shoes Fannin was wearing when he was booked into jail.
Questioned at the jail about what happened the night before, Fannin denied being at the school other than to use the restroom. He said a stranger he met at Finley’s General Store gave him the items, documents said.
Fannin remains in the Benton County jail on $5,000 bail.