A man is in jail after breaking into the Central Elementary School building.
D.J. Smith was arrested early Friday afternoon after allegedly breaking into the building early Friday morning, but his alleged larceny spree started before that.
“At 11 p.m. the night before … he was arrested for breaking into a storage building on Lea Plant Road as well as stealing from Walmart,” said Waynesville Police Lt. Tyler Trantham. “He was released on an unsecured bond after that, and he told me in an interview that he walked straight from jail to Central Elementary and broke in.”
Trantham said surveillance footage from Central Elementary placed Smith in the building at 3:30 a.m.
“They have really good video surveillance inside the school there, and we were able to gather some evidence as well,” he said, adding that the department was able to put a good description of Smith out to officers out on patrol. “We started canvassing the area and looked for the suspect who we believed may have been wearing the same clothing.”
“Shortly after noon, we located Mr. Smith walking down Hazelwood Avenue, and he was detained at the time,” Trantham added.
Upon making contact with Smith, Trantham said he found a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun in his waistband.
“That gun was stolen earlier in the week from another B&E (breaking and entering) case we had earlier in the week,” Trantham said.
Upon investigation, it was determined that Smith stole several items from the school building.
“He caused quite a bit of damage inside the building. I don’t know his motive to do that, but there was some damage, and there were some items taken,” Trantham said. “We were able to recover those items.”
Following his arrest, Smith was charged with breaking and entering, larceny and possession of a stolen firearm, which are all felonies, as well as one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon.
Trantham said making the arrest was a matter of following up on the information they had about the suspect and keeping a keen eye out.
“We always work hard to get these things together,” he said. “We know that the first 24 hours after something like this, it’s really important that we go out and beat the bushes, so to speak, and follow up on as many leads as we can.”
Superintendent of Haywood County Schools Bill Nolte said he was happy with the hard work Waynesville Police put in to apprehend Smith and recover the stolen property. He said it’s important to keep the property in good condition because he anticipates it will be put back into service at some point in the future.
“Central Elementary is a valued piece of property for us,” he said. “We are holding onto it because we believe the development of Allens Creek, Plott Creek, the BiLo location and the schools’ central office building will produce enough new students to open it as a school. That will be sometime in the future.”
“That’s why we do some monitoring there to determine if people have been there inappropriately,” he added.
Waynesville Interim Police Chief Brian Beck said he was thrilled with the good work his officers put in to bring Smith in.
“Our officers did one heck of an outstanding job between CID (Criminal Investigation Division) and patrol in locating, identifying and charging the people involved,” he said. “And through that we were able to charge them on other cases that we solved. This was absolutely fantastic police work.”