Alleged thieves went to the well once too often at a Hamburg rail yard.
Police set up a stakeout two nights after a theft at Reading Blue Mountain & Northern and arrested David T. Hartman, 52, Bethel Township; and Kurt P. Webber, 51, Palmyra, and Eric Reppert, 36, Fredericksburg.
The trio were taken into custody following a foot chase and search after the pre-dawn stakeout Monday, Sept. 14, by officers with the Hamburg borough and Reading Blue Mountain & Northern police departments.
The trio are accused of removing heavy copper and aluminum battery cables from locomotives at the railroad museum and selling the wire for scrap, investigators said Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Hartman of the first block of Keeney Road and co-defendants were committed to Berks County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail each after arraignment before District Judge Dean R. Patton in Reading Central Court.
They all face felony counts of institutional vandalism and flight to avoid apprehension, along with misdemeanor counts of theft by unlawful taking and damaging railroad property.
According to investigators:
About 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, Duane Engle, president of the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum in Hamburg reported to railroad police that heavy-tractor motor cables were taken from the museum’s locomotives parked in the rail yard in the 500 block of South Third Street. He also reported a battery was removed from the diesel car belonging to the railroad company.
Sgt. Ryan Parks of the railroad police faxed a description of the stolen items to area scrapyards and received a call back from Laurel Street Recyclers in Reading the same day. That morning, he said, a man he identified as Webber brought the items into the scrap yard and sold them for more than $100. The items were still in the scrap yard.
The scrap yard had made a photocopy of Webber’s address in compliance with state law.
The worker said Webber had been coming to Laurel Street for several days to sell cable. A man later identified by police as Hartman would accompany him but remain in the pickup truck.
The railroad police and Hamburg police thought the thieves might be back and organized a stakeout of the rail yard that began about 1:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 14. Just before 4 a.m., three men passed a uniformed Hamburg policemen in the middle of the yard.
He yelled for the men to stop, but they all ran toward a thick brush.
Police cut off Reppert before he could escape the yard. The other two made it through the weeds and a search was conducted. Hartman was found hiding near the Dollar General store nearby. About a half-hour later, Webber was found hiding in weeds near a rail car.