Photo by Brian Giandelone
COVINGTON -- Police searched Cousins Middle School for more than two hours early Saturday morning, looking for a burglar who set off the school's security system. When they finally found him, they were surprised that he was completely naked.
According to a Covington Police Department incident report, officers, the department's K-9 Unit, deputies from the Newton County Sheriff's Office and even firefighters with the Covington Fire Department joined in the two-and-a-half-hour search before finally locating the culprit in the ceiling of the building.
Arrested was Ronald Stephens, 21, of 2805 Lee Court, Conyers, who was charged with criminal trespass, burglary and a probation violation warrant out of Rockdale County.
The incident began about 3:30 a.m. when a CPD officer went to the school located at 8187 Carlton Trail to check out the sounding burglar alarm. He reported noticing a stack of plastic crates that appeared to have been used as a makeshift ladder to the roof.
"A boot was about midway up the stack as if a person climbing had stepped out of their shoe," the report stated. "The security camera above this door appeared to have been knocked free from the wall it was mounted on."
Inside some glass doors the officer said he saw two media carts full of electronic equipment. A leaf blower, bolt cutters and a crate full of portable radios were on the ground near the door.
When backup officers arrived, the first officer on the scene began to explain what was going on when he noticed a person moving about inside the hall area behind the door. The person was described as "a tall, slender black male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head and some type of white cloth covering his face."
One of the officers went to the front of the building to watch the front door, while other officers formed a perimeter around the building. The Covington Fire Department was called in to provide additional lighting and a ladder truck to access the roof.
Officers went to the roof and found an entry point through a vent near the kitchen, the report stated.
Inside the building, officers went to the cafeteria and reported hearing movement and noises coming from the ceiling. They also found a damaged cash register and ice cream freezer in the area, as well as damage to the art room and technologies room.
The canine alerted on the ceiling in the technologies room, but when ceiling tiles were removed in that room, the officers did not see the suspect. However, after looking in several other rooms throughout the building, officers returned to the technologies room and removed more tiles.
"Several clothing items, including a black hooded sweatshirt with a set of keys, later identified as janitor keys, and a rubber pair of boots were found in the ceiling," the report states. "Officers then removed a ceiling panel inside a small room within the classroom. Officers then noticed the suspect crouched and completely naked on top of one of the walls which extended past the ceiling tiles."
In attempting to climb down from the ceiling, the suspect fell and complained of injury to his elbow and legs that he said occurred prior to the fall. A jail jumpsuit was located for him to wear to the hospital for treatment.
CPD spokesman Lt. Wendell Wagstaff said officers theorized that the reason Stephens was wearing no clothes was that the vent where he entered the building was extremely small.
"It was such a tight fit, he had to take his clothes off to get through there," Wagstaff said. "His pants, socks and shoes were found on the roof."