MOUNT CARMEL - A door-to-door canvass of a Mount Carmel neighborhood that had been hit with a rash of auto burglaries late last week brought police to the doorstep of the alleged perpetrators Saturday evening.
At least eight auto burglaries occurred in the Ponderosa subdivision Friday and Saturday, mainly on Spruce Street but also on Poplar Street.
Mount Carmel Police Department Officer George Copas began going door to door in the subdivision Saturday afternoon, asking residents to check if they too had been victims, and asking if they had any knowledge of the crimes.
Copas eventually spoke to a man who lives in a basement apartment at 423 Spruce St. According to reports, the man eventually admitted to Copas that Robert Lee Johnson Jr., 22, 3818 Bonita Drive, Kingsport, had just arrived at the basement apartment with a bunch of items.
When Copas spoke to Johnson, Johnson was allegedly wearing a stolen watch that Copas had just done a report on and carrying a stolen billfold in his back pocket that Copas also recognized as being recently reported stolen.
There was also a stolen cell phone found lying beside where Johnson had been sitting, according to the report.
"It was really good police work because George actually knocked on the door where this suspect and a lot of the stolen property was located," MCPD Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said Monday. "I think the subject who lives at the residence panicked while George was talking to him and pretty much gave up his friend. We have Mr. Johnson charged, and there are charges pending against three other subjects who were partying at the residence while these burglaries were occurring."
Campbell said it is alleged that four males in the basement apartment were using cocaine, and when the drugs ran out they went on a car burglary spree looking for items to trade for drugs.
A handgun that was stolen from one vehicle was traded to a Kingsport dealer for cocaine, Campbell said, and now investigators are following up that angle as well.
Campbell said there is a pile of stolen property in his office that has yet to be claimed by victims.
There was a wide variety of items stolen from the vehicles ranging from four packs of crackers valued at $1.50 to a compact disc player valued at $200.
One victim lost a travel bag containing socks, underwear and toiletries. Others lost compact discs, cell phones, a radar detector, an American Express card that was used to buy $49 worth of gasoline, power tools and their accessories, eyeglasses, two walkie-talkies and a raincoat.
Most of the stolen items have been recovered, Campbell said.
Johnson was initially charged with six counts of auto burglary and six counts of theft, but more charges are pending against him. He remained lodged in the Hawkins County Jail Monday on $10,000 bond.