"Cigarette Bandit" Drops in Through Ceiling - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

"Cigarette Bandit" Drops in Through Ceiling

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Convenience store owners across the Chattahoochee Valley have done what they can to fend off burglars, putting up iron bars and grates on their windows and doors. But criminals aren't letting that stop them.

It seems they'll do just about anything to get in and get what they want.

In a recent string of break-ins at food marts in South Columbus, the burglars used the roof to gain access to the business.

In surveillance footage from the Friendly Express Gas Station on North Lumpkin Road in South Columbus, you see ceiling pieces start to crumble and fall to the floor in the enclosed glass area that contains the cash register, lottery tickets and cigarettes.

In the corner of the screen, feet appear and an intruder drops down and goes to work.

He moves fast, filling plastic bags with cigarettes and goes back out the same way he came in. The owners say this happened twice last week.

The same methods were used at Jeff's Fine Foods and the Handee Mart on Cusseta Road.

At Jeff's, you can see the giant hole in the ceiling as soon as you walk in the door. The tools left behind aren't anything sophisticated- they look like what someone would use to jimmy a lock.

"We seem to have a cigarette bandit. They broke in here three times and all they stole was Newport cigarettes. The reason, I would guess, is that they're selling them on the side," said Jeff's manager, Fred Jones.

Surveillance video taken early Tuesday morning captured two masked men filling trash bags with cigarettes.

Charles Johnson, 28, caught by police at the scene and investigators are working to see if he is behind the other roof top break-ins and who he may have been working with. Police reports list Johnson's home address as being on Cusseta Road- not far from Jeff's Fine Foods.

"It's awful. To keep tearing the place up-it costs us thousands of dollars each time they do that. For them to come in and steal a few cartoons of cigarettes, I think it's crazy," Jones added.

Charles Johnson is charged with burglary and is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday morning.

He's being held in the Muscogee County Jail.

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