UPDATE: According to the Bradley County Sheriff's County Facebook page, the suspect was arrested in Chattanooga, Monday morning.
Tom Perry Bell, 58, from Chattanooga, was arrested by Chattanooga Police Department when an officer observed the Stolen Missionary Baptist Church pulling out of a business on Highway 58.
Bradley County Sheriff's Office have charged Bell with Burglary and Theft over $1,000.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Cleveland Police Department and the Bradley County Sheriff Office is searching for a man they is responsible for several burglaries in Cleveland, TN while driving a stolen church van.
The man was first spotted Wednesday, Nov. 23 at Second Missionary Baptist Church where police say he stole the church's 2002 Ford, white, 15 passenger van.
The church's staff tells Channel 3 it happened around midnight. They say they spotted the man on surveillance video walking from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), located next to the church, then through the church's parking lot. They say he then made his way over a large locked gate surrounding three church vans. They say he then used some type of tool to pry the gate open, leaving the gate lock undamaged. Because no keys were left in the van, they say the man must have hot wired the van to drive away.
On Friday, Nov. 25, around 3 a.m., the man and the church van was spotted at Fuel Mart on South Lee Highway, where a burglary was reported. The store manager tells Channel 3 the cracked the front door's glass and busted into the store, and walked away about $1,900 worth of cigarettes cash.
On Sunday around 1:30 a.m., a second burglary occurred about miles away at Cleveland Country Mart on Waterlevel Highway, involving the man and the same church van.
Pankaj Padel, the store manager at Cleveland Country Mart, said he got a call from his security company right away, then again early in the morning, but didn't actually realize what happened until he watched the surveillance video.
"He just tried to kick out the glass on the door. He kicked about 25 to 30 times and he broke the door and he lifted the glass and ran through inside the door," Padel said. "Between the two glasses I have plastic so he didn't crash the whole glass. He just made the crack inside, so he just bended it you know like we do paper. He just bent the glass and he ran under the bottom."
Padel said repairing the damage not only effects his store, but customers too, but he's grateful no one was around in fear of them being hurt.
"You know people nowadays they just get anything done you know so I don't know what to do extra. I just try my best to secure my store," Padel said.
The Cleveland Police Department is investigating the incident at Fuel Mart, and the Bradley County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident at Cleveland Country Mart.
Pastor Ernest L. Reid, Jr. said the church is hoping the police will confiscate and return the church's van.
Anybody with information regarding the person's identity and/or information that could help solve these burglaries should contact the Criminal Investigations Division at (423) 728-7336.
PREVIOUS STORY: Bradley County Sheriff's Office and Cleveland police are asking for information in identifying a person that used a stolen church van in two burglaries.
According to the Bradley County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, on Wednesday, November 23, a 2002 Ford white church van with a Tennessee tag number of (968-CRC) was stolen from Second Missionary Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Police say since the van was stolen, the van has been used in two burglaries in Cleveland, which occurred at the Fuel Mart on South Lee Highway and the Cleveland Country Mart on Waterlevel Highway. Police say a black male drove the stolen church van to the locations and forced entry to the buildings in both burglaries. Officials say once into the stores the man stole a large number of cigarettes.
The Cleveland Police Department is investigating the incident on South Lee Highway, and the Bradley County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident on Waterlevel Highway. Anybody with information regarding the person’s identity and/or information that could help solve these burglaries should contact the Criminal Investigations Division at (423) 728-7336.