The thief — who was impersonating a Florida Power & Light employee— ran behind his accomplice into the South Miami police department’s parking lot, as an officer chased him. His accomplice got into the driver’s seat of a light-colored van and drove away leaving him running behind.
The chase happened Monday afternoon when a South Miami police officer spotted Manuel Jesus Lemus-Ruiz, 51, of Hialeah, cutting wire in the utility room of an empty commercial building, 6150 SW 72nd St., undergoing renovations.
The officer first saw an unidentified man outside the building. When he walked toward him, the man began to call Lemus-Ruiz’s cell to let him know that an officer was approaching, but could not do so fast enough. Both men took off running and left behind a black and gray book bag with tools and a reflective yellow vest.
“There were about 250 pounds of cut copper wire rolled up,” said South Miami police Maj. Rene Landa. It was near “a man-hole cover that had been removed to pull the copper wire from the building.”
Police said the copper was valued at less than $5,000. Two officers caught on to the thief after he ran through a gas station, across Sunset Drive onto 62nd Avenue and then east through an alleyway on 61st Court. Lemus-Ruiz is being charged with resisting arrest and possession of burglary tools with intent to use.
With metal prices high, copper theft has increasingly become a trend, Landa said. Last year, Miami-Dade County’s Operation Copper Stopper caught a duo that garnered about $50,000 from selling stolen copper from schools in Hialeah, Miami Gardens, North Miami and North Miami Beach.