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He took $23K in Verizon phones. Now he’s accused of targeting football lockers at TCU

Man who stole thousands in electronics from TCU football team still at large

Police are looking for a man who stole thousands in electronics from the TCU football team's locker room on September 11. Anyone with information about the suspect’s identity is asked to call Detective McCormack at 817-257-7050
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Police are looking for a man who stole thousands in electronics from the TCU football team's locker room on September 11. Anyone with information about the suspect’s identity is asked to call Detective McCormack at 817-257-7050

A 24-year-old Tyler man on probation for stealing more than $23,000 worth of phones from a Verizon store is now accused of stealing from the lockers of members of the TCU football team.

Vernell D. Richardson, who is not affiliated with Texas Christian University, was arrested Wednesday morning on a burglary of building warrant upon reporting to his probation officer in Tyler, officials said.

He is accused of stealing seven cellphones and a set of Beats headphones from the lockers of TCU football players as they practiced on Sept. 11, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Richarson.jpg
A 2017 mugshot of Vernell D. Richardson Smith County Sheriff's Office

Richardson was identified as a suspect in the case after TCU police released a photograph and video of a person of interest in the case who had been caught on security cameras hanging out in a lobby near the locker room for about an hour.

The man, who was wearing a backpack, was later caught on camera entering the locker room, then walking out eight minutes later and leaving TCU’s Meyer-Martin Athletic Complex.

A Star-Telegram article about the theft sparked a tip to TCU police from a reader, who identified the man seen in the video as Richardson, a former high school classmate.

Richardson was being held Wednesday afternoon in the Smith County Jail.

Suspect denies allegations

Richardson voluntarily met with TCU police Detective Michael McCormack in September and admitted he was on the TCU campus Sept. 11 to meet a friend but denied stealing any phones.

“Richardson said this friend was from Garland and they agreed to meet in the middle here at TCU,” McCormack wrote. “When I explained to him that TCU is not in the middle of Tyler and Garland, he still said that’s where they agreed to meet.”

Richardson told McCormack that his friend never showed up and that he left the campus after about 45 minutes. Surveillance video, however, showed he’d been on campus for almost three hours, the affidavit states.

Richardson is also a person of interest in two locker room thefts that occurred at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas on Aug. 31 and Sept. 4. He told McCormack he’s stopped at SMU to use the restroom.

Richardson acknowledged walking around TCU but said it was to check out the school and its trophies. The affidavit points out, however, that video from the TCU campus showed the suspect walking past the trophy area — including by the Heisman Trophy twice — but never glancing that way.

“I asked him to explain how every time he was on the SMU campus and the TCU campus, several phones are stolen and he said he can’t,” McCormack wrote in the affidavit.

Previous accusations

According to court records and media reports, Richardson has been accused of similar thefts in Smith County.

He was working with a cleaning crew, contracted to clean a Verizon store, when Tyler police say he stole more than $23,000 worth of phones from the business between April and June 2015.

Officer Don Martin, a Tyler police spokesman, said Richardson stole the phones on three occasions, placing them into a trash can to conceal them.

“When they start realizing their inventory was coming up short, they went back and looked at their surveillance cameras and saw what he was doing.,” Martin said.

Richardson was charged with theft of property and sentenced in June 2016 to five years probation, Smith County court records show.

In 2017, Richardson was accused of stealing property from two Tyler high school locker rooms. According to news reports about those thefts, a man claiming he was at the schools to work on the floors, went into the boys locker rooms and stole several phones and personal belongings.

A surveillance photo of the suspect was released to the media, generating a tip that led to Richardson’s arrest.

Richardson was charged with burglary in but was later found not guilty in the case in June, Smith County court records show.

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