— By TODD GLASSCOCK
City building inspector Tony Stubblefield never thought he would take on the role of police officer.
But he recently found himself wrestling down a burglar.
As he and colleague Stephanie Thomas entered the shuttered Baker Hotel the morning of April 14 for a routine walk-through they saw a man in the main hallway carrying a blue bag over his shoulder.
“I said, ‘Hi,’” Stubblefield said, greeting the man. He then asked what the man was doing inside the hotel.
“I’ve got some metal,” the man said.
“It was like he was going to his job,” Stubblefield said.
After putting on his inspector’s badge and identifying himself, Stubblefield asked the man to have a seat in an old plastic chair. The man sat down.
This action was pretty normal for someone caught trespassing on the property, he said. Most people, when caught, will usually comply and wait with inspectors until police arrive.
Stubblefield said he began to question the man about his name. He said he was pretty certain the man was Terry J. Williams, who inspectors learned had been selling bronze and other metals from the Baker to a local recycler.
The city inspectors informed police a few weeks earlier that pieces of metal, such as bronze trim on the elevators and a 25-foot piece of bronze railing from a lobby bannister, were missing from the hotel and they had cataloged what they knew was missing, he said.
Police began an investigation that led to the recycling company, he said, where, after sifting through some metal recently brought in by the suspect, police found a piece that had been taken from the Baker. The recycling company identified the suspect, but police were unable to track him down the day of the investigation.
The police let the inspectors know of the man’s identity in case they ran into him while on one of their hotel walk-throughs, he said.
“We made it a habit of going every few days to the Baker,” he said, once they found out who they were looking for.
So, on that Monday morning, as Stubblefield questioned the man, he got antsy and suddenly took off running. He and Thomas went after him. The man slipped and fell and he and Thomas grabbed him. Stubblefield then held the man down until police arrived.
Police arrested the man at the scene and identified him as Terry J. Williams, 36, of Mineral Wells. He was charged with two counts of burglary of a building, unlawful carrying of a weapon and criminal trespass, according to police reports. Williams remained in Palo Pinto County Jail Tuesday afternoon. No bond has been set.
Along with the bag, which was filled with assorted metal tubing, copper connectors and other items, Williams was also found in possession of a bayonet, as well as tools such as wrenches and a hacksaw used for removing metal from buildings, the police report said.
“This was the first time anything like this has happened,” Stubblefield said. “Normally [trespassers] wait civilly.”
He said it was a shame this man, like others, saw the metals like those in the Baker as just a source of money for their next burger or next fix.
“That bannister: they saw it as X amount of dollars,” he said as he headed out Tuesday afternoon for another trip to the Baker. “He cut up a piece of history. It’s now gone. We can’t get that piece back.”