Faulty Door Lock Allows Vandalism Spree at City Building

Dec. 9--A plan was in place to tighten security measures at the Daniel Boone Building before a man entered the structure early yesterday and vandalized several areas on two floors.

Police say Ricky D. Wilson, 25, of Wills Point, Texas, took advantage of a faulty door lock on the north side of the building at 701 E. Broadway.

At about 4 a.m., police said, he apparently entered the building, kicked in part of a wall, broke locks on at least two doors in the building and broke a window on the fifth floor.

City employees who arrived yesterday morning for work also found ceiling tiles broken in the fourth-floor men's room and a water fountain torn off the wall.

Tony St. Romaine, an assistant city manager, said the incident likely would not have happened if the building had a "keycard" system that would require people to wave the card in front of an electronic eye to open the door.

The city recently hired a St. Louis-based company to install such a system. Officials say they expect the $8,784 system to be in place next week.

"We have always had a concern about security in this building," said St. Romaine, who added that municipal employees are given keys to the building. "Keeping track of keys gets to be a touchy issue over the years," he said.

John Sudduth, building regulations supervisor, said the problem with the door lock can be blamed on the weather.

The door lock mechanism uses a metal rod that moves vertically into holes above and below the door. Sudduth said the bottom hole was filled with ice, which left that portion of the door insecure, allowing Wilson to allegedly push the door open.

"We definitely think it was weather related," he said.

Among 20 other buildings the city maintains, the situation that occurred at the Boone building is not likely to be repeated. Most of those buildings either are monitored by surveillance cameras or have keycard or security systems.

Dan Dasho, Water and Light director, said each of the city utility's buildings is equipped with keycard systems that allow administrators to monitor who enters the facilities.

Gary Ristow, Parks and Recreation Department recreation services manager, said most parks facilities have security systems to alert police to intruders.

Wilson, who police described as an employee of a private construction company working on a commercial development site in Columbia, was charged yesterday with first-degree burglary and property damage.

Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said Wilson "certainly made some incriminating statements" under questioning from investigators. He said Wilson was drunk and was "passed out or asleep" when officers found him on the first floor of the Boone building.

"We don't think he was even entirely aware of where he was," Nelson said.

City officials estimate Wilson -- whose image and actions were captured by surveillance cameras -- allegedly caused between $2,000 and $4,000 in damage.

Copyright (c) 2006, Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.