A Mechanicville man faces felony charges of burglary and criminal mischief after police said he entered the Stillwater Area Community Center while a youth basketball game was under way and caused $2,000 worth of damages to equipment and the building.
According to Stillwater police, Thomas Brewer, 25, of 14 N. Main Street, Apt. 2, entered the community center Feb. 2, damaged various electrical wires throughout the building and broke a switch on an elevator.
Brewer also broke into a second-floor room where a karate class is held and removed a metal panel from a water fountain, police said. The fountain was damaged and will cost about $900 to repair, police said.
There is no evidence that Brewer stole anything from the community center in the two hours he was there, police said.
Employees didn’t notice the vandalism until the next day. Police said Brewer was caught because much of what he did was captured on video by the center’s 16-camera security system. Because it was the weekend, officials said, no one was monitoring the cameras.
Police said that they recognized Brewer from the video they reviewed the day after the incident but were unable to find him until Tuesday.
“We think he was hiding,” Sgt. Ray Cordani said. “We got the information that he would be at a certain place around a certain time on Tuesday and we were there, and there he was.”
Cordani would not disclose where Brewer was found but said that he was arrested without incident and charged with felony burglary and felony criminal mischief.
Community Center Executive Director Paul Lilac said that he plans to make sure the cameras are monitored in the future during weekend events when the center’s doors are open.
“If the building is locked, we have the alarm system so that isn’t a problem,” he said. “Nobody got hurt this time, but this guy was walking around and that’s still not a good situation.”
Lilac said that he expects someone will start watching the cameras on the weekend within a few weeks.
“It may very well be me; I may go over there and do some work if there’s a program going on there for a couple hours,” he said.
“If not me, first of all, we’d be seeking volunteers to do that rather than going through an expense, although if we need to go through an expense, it’s certainly money well spent.”
Besides the physical damage, Lilac said that he saw evidence of odd behavior by Brewer.
For example, he said, Brewer removed eight screws from a light switch panel and placed them on a box in very specific horseshoe pattern. Lilac also claimed that Brewer unfolded an American flag and hung it on the wall in a small room near one of the center’s gyms.
“He was nonchalant, apparently didn’t care if anybody was looking at him or not. He just went about his business,” Lilac said. “Very strange, very bizarre.”
The arrest wouldn’t have been possible without the security system, according to Cordani.
The $38,000 system was installed in 2006 by Homeland Security Systems in Troy and paid for with a state grant arranged by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick.
In a video played for the press by Lilac, a man he identified as Brewer is seen in green camouflage pants, a white shirt, dog tags and headphones. He also had a glove on one of his hands as he walked in a hallway.
“I don’t know if this was a game, I don’t know if this was illness, I don’t know if this was a vendetta,” Cordani said. “Why did he do it? I don’t know.”
Tuesday’s arrest was not Brewer’s first brush with the law. He was arrested in 2003 by Stillwater police and charged with harassment after a fight with another resident.
Brewer was also arrested twice in June 2004 by Mechanicville police, but Lt. Dave DeCelle would not give any specifics because he said that Brewer’s records were sealed.
He was remanded to the Saratoga County Jail on $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond bail, where he remained Wednesday evening.