WOONSOCKET — Police surprised two masked men as they were lugging computers out of Woonsocket High School through a smashed window early Sunday.
One of the suspects escaped after scaling a fence, but another was captured after a foot chase. Police also recovered about $12,000 worth of computer equipment the alleged intruders had removed from the school.
Maxwell A. Johnson, 19, was charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime with felonious intent and conspiracy to commit a felony.
Police said they responded to the high school after an alarm company told them it had detected “audible banging” noises in the Cass Avenue building.
When officers arrived, at about 12:30 a.m., they saw two men wearing black ski masks, hoodies and other dark clothing, behind the school. One jumped a fence and ran off, while Johnson was cornered by police officers when he tried to run toward the side of the building.
In the dark, police noticed that a window leading to a room filled with computer equipment had been smashed, but nothing else seemed amiss.
Just after dawn, however, Officer Thomas Duncan returned to the scene and discovered that six Macintosh laptops, three keyboards and other accessories had been stockpiled near the fence behind the school.
School officials later confirmed that the computers belonged to the education department and that they are worth about $2,000 apiece, according to reports.
Not far from the computers, Duncan also found a backpack containing burglary tools.
After he was taken into custody, Johnson allegedly gave investigators a statement indicating that he carried out the break with not one, but two accomplices, describing them as friends he’d made in the city after moving here from Pawtucket recently. He said they were all at a lemonade stand on Park Avenue about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when one of them asked him if he wanted to “make some money.” Johnson said he agreed to go along without knowing what the plan was, according to a report.
Because he is still unfamiliar with the city, he told police, he was unsure where his friends were leading him when they set out for the school. When they reached their destination, he said, one of his friends told him to “start smashing windows.”
Detective Jamie Paone, a spokeswoman for the police, said all of the computers were recovered by the police in good condition and returned to the education department. She said the break remains under investigation.
The arrest marked the second time Johnson has been arrested in less than two weeks. The judiciary’s Web site says he was arraigned on Pawtucket police charges of assault and obstructing on April 17. He was released on personal recognizance following his arraignment on the new charges Monday and is due back in District Court on July 2.