Washington officials were surprised this week to learn that a homeless man spent most evenings over the last two or three weeks living in a city hall office.
Washington Police arrested Justin W. Beckmann, 24, Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 11, after an investigation of reckless driving led them to the man, who admitted to sleeping in the city engineering department’s office and driving a city vehicle around town.
Beckmann is charged in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court with felony burglary, felony tampering with a motor vehicle and misdemeanor stealing. He is being held in the Franklin County Jail on a $15,000 cash-only bond.
According to police, employees in the engineering department had noticed strange things happening in the office in the weeks leading up to Beckmann’s arrest, including change missing from desks, city keys being moved, extra gas being needed for the department’s vehicle and employee lunches being mysteriously eaten.
Upon arrest, Beckmann admitted he had not only been sleeping inside the office at night and using a city vehicle, but also eating food and stealing change, Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said.
Beckmann gained access to city hall weeks ago when he decided to sleep in a staircase on the southern side of the building. A staircase there descends to a door that leads to the engineering department’s office.
Sitzes said Beckmann told police when he went to the stairwell he had planned to sleep in for the night he noticed a key left in the door. Beckmann took the key, slipped inside the building and began his extended stay in the office.
The detective said Beckmann would slip in and out of the office during the evenings and early morning and claimed to have only used the vehicle “once or twice.”
Sitzes said it was thanks to a citizen who called the department Monday, Sept. 10, to report a man recklessly driving that city vehicle around town that police tracked Beckmann down. The citizen provided a photo of the man at the wheel of the truck.
City officials did not recognize the man, but Sitzes said some police officers recognized him as a homeless individual in the area. The next day, he was arrested.
Sitzes said over a period of two to three weeks Beckmann spent his evenings at city hall, not straying from the confines of the office and the office’s lunchroom. Due to cameras in city hall, Beckmann didn’t have many places to go.
“Nobody noticed because he would come and go from that door,” Sitzes said. “Weird things were occurring, but nobody could put it together until after he was caught.”
Read more about Beckmann and how the city is responding in the weekend edition of The Missourian.