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Cigarette thief strikes Columbus


William Browning



Call him the cigarette bandit that prefers menthols. 


Twice in two months someone has kicked out a window at a downtown Columbus retailer in the middle of the night and stolen packs of Newport-brand cigarettes. 


It has happened both times at Fred's on Fifth Street South. Beverly Blakeney, the store's manager, believes the same person is responsible for the break-ins. 


It happened most recently Saturday at about 3:30 a.m. 


The suspect is male, according to surveillance video. His approach went like this: He shattered the bottom window of the store's door with a rock and finished the job with his boot. Then he crawled in and targeted the cigarette stand. 


He took a little more than $100 worth of Newport packs before fleeing, Blakeney said. 


On the night after Easter, at about 2:30 a.m., the first break-in occurred in similar fashion. The bandit made off with $500 worth of Newports that time, according to Blakeney. 


Both times, the culprit stuffed his loot in what appeared to be a plastic garbage bag before fleeing. 


No one has been arrested in connection with the crimes. 


On Thursday, Latasha Key, secretary of the criminal investigations division with the Columbus Police Department, declined to elaborate on the investigation or offer a description of the suspect. 


"The investigators that are working these cases have already aired the videos on Crimestoppers," she wrote in an email to The Dispatch. "As far as what was taken, it's still an ongoing investigation."


William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.



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