Two Columbus men were caught red-handed at the old Lee Middle School when officers with the Columbus Police Department noticed a suspicious vehicle near the school. Columbus Police officer Nick Williams was checking the grounds of the old Lee Middle School campus shortly after 3:30 p.m. when he noticed a GMC Sierra pick up parked behind the old music and shop building that faces 18th Ave. North. Williams turned his spotlight on the building and noticed an expandable aluminum ladder propped up against the Northern wall of the building just East of the breezeway. Just as Williams prepared to ask E-911 dispatch for assistance, officer Chris Smith radioed that he was in the area and joined Williams on scene.
Williams and and Smith drew their flashlights and cautiously climbed the ladder to the roof of the building where they discovered a set of bolt cutters and a large array of frayed large gauge electrical wires. The duo worked their way around the rooftop for several minutes before discovering a white male laying on his chest tucked underneath a stove exhaust vent. The two officers drew their service weapons and ordered the man, later identified as 31 year-old Bobby Reeves to his feet.
As he was being handcuffed, Reeves told officers that he was homeless and had been living inside of the school for the last three days. On his person, officers found a razor utility knife, a flashlight, three or four AA batteries and a hard pack of Marbalo Red cigarettes.
When asked why he was on the roof and why he had a ladder if he was staying inside of the building, Reeves told police that he had been inside of the school when Williams arrived on scene and had climbed up through a janitor’s closet to attempt to hide from the cops. Reeves also added that he had no idea there was a ladder on the side of the building. Unfortunately for Mr. Reeves, the officers noticed that his hands were both blistered and stained black- the same color as the large gauge wire that lay partially stripped mere feet from where they stood.
Officers Amanda Burrell and Bo Pearson arrived on scene alongside Lt. James Grant and Cpl. Bill Smith and assisted Reeves to a waiting patrol car. A closer inspection of the center courtyard resulted in more evidence of tomfoolery, including a second pair of bolt cutters and several pieces of stripped wire.
Officer then ran a check on the abandoned pickup truck and had E-911 contact the owner in hopes of obtaining more information. The owner of the truck told police her son John Eads had the truck, and reportedly told police something along the lines of: “wherever John is, Bobby Reeves wasn’t far behind.”
With the new found knowledge that Reeves likely had an accomplice to the crime, officers huddled up and developed a strategy to search the building. Officer Thomas Culpepper, who had been guarding the perimeter on Military Rd., joined Cpl. Smith and Pearson and began to search the inside of the building, using the boiler room door that Reeves had mentioned. Chris Smith and Williams went up to the roof to check for Eads in any possible hiding spots. About five minutes into the manhunt, Williams radioed in the he had heard a noise coming from a second floor exhaust vent on the Military Rd. side of the school. Within seconds of his comment, Officer Burrell, who had been standing guard in the center courtyard, heard a rustle coming from a nearby bush.
“Do NOT move! I am armed, do NOT move, or I will shoot” Burrell shouted into the silent night air.
“I ain’t movin! I ain’t movin,” Eads replied as he lay face-down on the moist grass, “just tell me what you want me to do!”
Once the other officers arrived, Burrell instructed Eads to his feet and he was handcuffed and taken into custody. As he was being transported, Eads was overheard telling police that he knew he was “doin’ wrong” and that he only did it there because he thought the school was set to be demolished.
(Lee Middle School was built in the early 1950s and served as the area’s primary high school for years. In the early 1990s Lee and Caldwell High School were consolidated at the Caldwell site, and Lee became a middle school. It served in that capacity until 2007, when the CMSD decided to build a new school near Columbus Air Force Base. It has been vacant since early 2011, when its students were shifted to the new campus.
Since then it has been occasionally used as a meeting place for churches or other community events, but has largely been abandoned.
Two local pastors are attempting to acquire the site for use as a church. One of them, Pastor Shane Cruz of Point of Grace Church, has repeatedly told the trustees that building was being vandalized.)
Columbus Police investigator Natashae Coleman-Brown arrived to process the scene and Columbus Schools Facility Director Susie Summerville inspected the building for further damage.
The dynamic duo of Eads and Reeves were transported to Lowndes County Adult Detention Center and charged with Burglary of a Commercial Building (a Felony.)