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Trail of glass leads to burglary suspect

By Greg Bird

A Whitley City man inadvertently led police to his door after an apparent robbery attempt at a local convenience store early Saturday morning. Authorities became suspicious after the man described seeing a vehicle at the store that exactly matched the description of his own truck.
Sheriff Randy Waters stated Gene P. Cooper, 53, was arrested on several charges relating to a break in and theft at the Valero gas station on North U.S. 27 in Whitley City.
According to the arrest citation Deputy Cody Stephens was alerted to an alarm call from the establishment indicating glass breakage at the building. Upon arrival he found the side door smashed. The Deputy made entry and was unable to locate the suspect.
While Deputy Stephens was reviewing security footage with store staff, Cooper approached Deputy Greg Chaney outside the store stating he had seen a white pickup with Tennessee tags pull up to the building around the time the alarm sounded.
Security footage showed a truck matching the description pull up to the side of the building, with a large appliance in the back. A male individual was observed entering the store and leaving a short time later with several cartons of cigarettes. The individual was wearing clothing matching what Cooper was wearing, so the officers went to the apartments across the road where Cooper lived to further question him.
Along the way the officers noticed a trail of broken glass leading to the parking lot, where the white truck was parked. Additional broken glass was found on the rear bumper of the vehicle.
When questioned Cooper said he did pull in to the station to put air in his tires, but denied involvement in the theft. He stated he had loaned the truck to a man he did not know for a short time. He added when the man returned he handed Cooper seven cartons of cigarettes and said “now we are even.”
Cooper returned the cigarettes, but changed his story again, stating he found them in the hallway and did not know where they had come from.
He was arrested and charged with theft by unlawful taking, burglary, criminal mischief and alcohol intoxication in a public place.

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