Update: January 18, 2024 – Within two days after a 500-foot broadcast tower was sabotaged in Hugo, Oklahoma in order to strip the felled sections of coaxial lines for their copper, two Choctaw County residents have been arrested in connection to the incident, according to Choctaw County Sheriff Terry Park.
Park said that the arrests were through the joint efforts of the Hugo and Paris Police Departments as well as an informant who provided details that led to the arrest.
They charged 37-year-old Matthew Wilson and 34-year-old Candice Logan with theft and vandalism. The radio station owner estimated damage to the station to be $500,000. The pair may also face federal charges as the investigation continues.
Communications tower copper thieves will frequently climb the structure to remove transmission lines, strip its copper, and sell it to a metal scrap dealer. An individual or thieves in Hugo, Oklahoma, bypassed the labor-intensive climb early Tuesday morning and felled a 500-foot solid rod tower by cutting a guy wire to remove transmission lines quickly.
The cost to replace the structure, a generator, and other equipment was estimated at $500,000.
Historically, the country’s vandals have toppled towers for the vicarious thrill, a vendetta, or to make an environmental statement. However, this is only the second known incident where it was done to facilitate the easy removal of copper. In 2008, according to Wireless Estimator reporting, thieves attempting to steal copper coaxial cables from a Tracy City, Tennessee 360-foot guyed tower, cut the guy wires, and caused the entire structure to collapse.
Choctaw County Sheriff’s Office deputies are investigating the incident, and Sheriff Terry Park was upfront about his disdain for the vandalism and theft in an online post.
“We’ve got to go back to sending all these crackheads to prison for a long, long time. Bury these worthless thieves in prison,” wrote Park.
He is encouraging the public to look for three-inch copper transmission lines in the back of a truck.
“Most likely, it’s not supposed to be there, so be on the lookout. Be aware of that—and then copper recycling companies. We need to hold them to make sure that they know this stuff is coming in, and it shouldn’t be,” Park said.
The recently installed tower is owned by Payne Media group and broadcasts K95.5. Will Payne, the media group’s president, angrily toured the tower site at daybreak.
“We’re hunting down somebody that brought down a tower in order to get a little hundred-dollar fix of copper. Seriously, that’s about all it’s going to be worth to them. Let’s make them pay,” said Payne.
Four years ago, in Tulsa County, about 160 miles south of Hugo, a 39-year-old copper thief did pay – with his life — when he cut into a copper power supply at an AM radio station tower and was electrocuted.
The Hugo tower still has multiple sections standing, and the station will be performing a structural analysis to see if they can be utilized in rebuilding the guyed tower.
The thieves left a 10-foot section of coax on the ground and some attached to the downed tower, possibly indicating that they were concerned that they had spent too much time at the site and after the station lost its ability to transmit, they might have sent someone to investigate.