Suspect throws stolen plywood from U-Haul at SC deputies during chase

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A suspect is on the loose after two men led York County deputies on a chase in North Carolina while throwing stolen plywood from the back of a U-Haul moving van, police say.

Deputies were patrolling the area of Shallowford Drive in Rock Hill on Aug. 17 when they saw two people loading plywood into the back of a moving van at a construction site. The suspects sped away after being confronted by the deputies, triggering a 90-minute chase, according to the York County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Trent Faris with the York County Sheriff's Office said lumber thefts have been rising with lumber prices. Sheriff Kevin Tolson is now instructing deputies to monitor construction sites, which is how these suspects were caught.

“It’s been going on in Clover, Rock Hill, Fort Mill, of course, and all over the county, and so when we’re in between calls, we patrol different construction sites," Deputy Faris said.

Faris said the deputy caught the two suspects stealing more than $5,000 worth of plywood from a new home construction site on Shallowford in Rock Hill, where Jeff Hawkins is the construction manager.

“There was a lot of lumber on site and they had a U-Haul truck, so they could have taken a lot more, but thankfully the sheriff’s department was here," Hawkins said.

Hawkins says lumber thefts have been a problem ever since the price of lumber skyrocketed in recent years. This is not the first time he’s had lumber stolen. This time the suspects got away with 50 sheets of plywood, but Hawkins believes they would have gotten away with a lot more if the deputy hadn't caught them stealing.

“It’s pretty frustrating because you’ve got guys out here that are working hard every day trying to do their job, and then when their materials is taken off their job or even tools sometimes, it affects their ability to do their jobs," Hawkins said.

During the chase, one of the suspects was seen throwing the plywood from the back of the truck at a pursuing deputy. The pursuit ended at an apartment complex off Brownstone Court in Gaston County, North Carolina.

The suspect accused of throwing the lumber from the van, identified as 63-year-old Willie Bailey of Clover, was arrested at the scene. Bailey was charged with first-degree assault and battery, grand larceny and criminal conspiracy. He's currently being held in the Gaston County jail.

"Lumber thefts from construction sites is an ongoing crime trend here in York County," Sheriff Kevin Tolson said. "A message to those who are stealing lumber, know our deputies are looking for you and we will stop you."

The driver of the box truck was able to get away and hasn't been arrested. York County deputies have not identified the suspect at this time.

Deputies recovered 50 sheets of plywood and several boxes of hardware after the chase.

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