HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – Pastor Louis Ward at the New Beginning Fellowship Church in Hudson knew something was wrong when he and his wife showed up to clean the sanctuary.
“Very hot in here,” said Pastor Ward. “It was like 91 degrees the day before so we figured we had to cancel. It was Saturday when we saw the problems.”
Ward had to cancel Sunday’s service at the church, which occupies a corner unit in a strip mall on U.S. 19 just south of the Hernando County line. The air conditioner wasn’t working. Further investigation revealed the reason why.
“They broke into these and stole copper out of them,” said Pastor Ward. “Which you can see here.”
The strip mall’s owner has protective guards around each of the air conditioning units, so thieves can’t steal the valuable coils. But surveillance cameras caught a thief stealing the copper tubing and wiring that goes from the exterior unit to the building rendering the units useless. The church has three units and all three were damaged.
Ward calls the situation disappointing. “I don’t know what the guy’s motive was, other than to sell the copper,” said Pastor Ward. “I don’t know why he would have done it. It is pretty disappointing.”
Lana Tessier works at a nearby business. When she saw the picture posted by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, she said to herself, I know that guy!
“He rides his bike around here. He’s a homeless guy. At first, we were feeling sorry for him,” said Tessier, who says recently he was demonstrating some odd behavior in the parking lot. “One day he’s dancing around the parking lot. He’s throwing things up. And it’s pouring down rain. This was during the hurricane.”
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in identifying the individual pictured in the surveillance photo.
Pastor Ward is hoping he turns himself in. “If he’s on drugs or something, maybe he can get some help, Maybe they’ll find some sort of program for him to put him in.”