Shuman Admission Center Break-In and Theft Lead to Car Chase and Arrest

A man has been charged with breaking into the Shuman Admission Center and stealing a laptop computer at around 2 p.m. on Friday, November 23. After the theft, he allegedly led officers from four local police departments and the Massachusetts State Police on a car chase, according to the “Newburyport News.” Darrin K. O’Neil, 47, of Newburyport, Mass. was arraigned in the Lawrence District Court on Monday, November 26, according to Andover Patch. He has pled not guilty to charges of larceny over $250, malicious destruction of property over $250 and breaking and entering into a building during the daytime with intent to commit a felony. He is being held on $2,500 cash bail, according to the “Newburyport News.” A pre-trial conference is scheduled for December 20. Bill Leahy, Director of Admission, reported the incident to the Andover Police at 2:13 p.m. after encountering the suspect in the building, according to Thomas Conlon, Director of Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS). After seeing broken glass near the building’s entrance, Leahy was preparing to call PAPS when he encountered the man, who said, “You scared the crap out of me,” according to “Newburyport News.” The man claimed to be looking for “Mike” and fled to a red minivan outside Shuman, according to Conlon. The man then drove east down Salem Street towards Route 114, according to Andover Patch. Leahy took a picture of the man’s license plate before calling 911 to report the break-in. Based on Leahy’s photo of the license plate and descriptions of the vehicle and the suspect, the Andover Police issued alerts to surrounding towns and the State Police. The Andover Police also surveyed the premises and found that various doors inside the building had been slightly damaged from attempts at forced entry, according to Conlon. One individual office was successfully broken into. PAPS contacted several members of the Admission Office to assess what was missing. They found that a laptop valued at more than $250 had been stolen from the office, according to the Newburyport News. The Andover and Lawrence Police attempted to pull over O’Neil’s car near a Denny’s Restaurant in Lawrence but failed. State Police joined the chase once O’Neil pulled onto Interstate 495 northbound. Newburyport, Amesbury and State Police officers ultimately ended the chase in Newburyport by using “stop sticks,” strips laid across the road that deflate car tires. Police arrested O’Neil at 3:52 p.m., according to Andover Patch. They brought O’Neil back to Andover for booking. The laptop was recovered and returned to its owner on Monday, according to Conlon. “[The perpetrator] was probably looking to take whatever [he] could, something [he] could sell quickly,” said Conlon. Shuman was locked at the time of the break-in, but the man used a rock to break a window panel adjacent to the door handle and open the door from inside, according to Conlon. Immediately after the incident, PAPS contacted the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) to fix the broken window. PAPS was notified of the situation through their radios that monitor the Andover Police Department’s radio traffic, according to Conlon. Leahy also later called PAPS directly. The break-in is not related to the recent thefts in Paresky Commons or the theft from the boys’ locker room in Borden Gym. “[The Shuman incident] was a random break-in. We’re looking at how to best secure this building and all other buildings on campus to prevent further break-ins,” said Conlon. This is not the first time a laptop has been stolen from Shuman. On November 21, 2008—also the Friday after Thanksgiving—an unidentified burglar smashed a window and stole two laptops from offices on the second floor, according to a previous article in The Phillipian. This incident was preceded by another theft a week earlier in which two laptops were stolen from Shuman at midday while their owners were at lunch. In both cases, the perpetrators were not caught. Because files saved on the computers also had been saved to the school’s network, no files were lost. The Technology Office at the time determined that important files on the stolen computers were password-protected and would be difficult to open. Files containing personal information about applicants were stored on a more highly protected system, according to the article.