Man dies in suspected copper theft

Tuesday, August 26th 2008, 12:02 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

DEL CITY, Okla. -Authorities said they may charge property owners after a man was electrocuted at an apartment complex Tuesday while trying to steal copper.

The incident happened near SE 29 and Sooner Road at an abandoned apartment building where electricity was still flowing.

Del City police are considering filing negligent homicide charges against the owners.

The body of the 32-year-old Damon Schmidt was found near a transformer box at the Kristie Manor North Apartments. Investigators believe he got zapped with at least 7200 volts of electricity.

"The injuries to this man at this point, it appears to be burns to his hands. It appears that's where the electricity came out of his body," said Cherokee Ballard, a Medical Examiner's Office official.

OG&E had to be called in to shut off the power so investigators could retrieve the body.

The man's father actually found his body, but police won't say how the father knew to look for his son here. The father even tried to attack the NEWS 9 crew and had to be restrained by police.

This is the second electrocution OG&E has seen this year related to copper thefts.

"We're continuing to see problems, whether they're stealing it from our substations or actually stealing it from our facilities" OG&E Spokesman Brian Alford said.

The apartment complex has been a problem for Del City for some time. Half of the buildings are dilapidated and empty, but some people still live here.

The city has pending legal action against the owners because the city considers the property a nuisance. Last year, NEWS 9 spoke to some of the tenants.

"It's just nasty. We don't know what to do. We can't let our kids come out and play, can't let them come out and play because of this," said resident Juan Villarreal.

Del City Police said they have responded to at least four reports of copper thefts at the apartment complex in recent weeks.

"I never want to see a criminal prosper from his crime, but I do also understand that there are children and other people in the area that need to have areas like this secure, so you don't have the criminal element brought in to commit crimes in that area," said Jody Suit of the Del City Police Department.