"I just couldn't believe it," Patrolman Kevin Hoarn of the Ewing police department told Action News as he recalled watching the police department's security cameras. "I was sitting here, I'm like, 'He did not just do that.'"
The suspect, 57-year-old Louis Bailey of Ewing, tried to hide from the cameras Wednesday, but he didn't seem concerned last Friday about the possibility of being photographed. Police say that's when they watched on monitors inside their radio room as a fuzzy figure removed one of the wreaths from the front door of the municipal building and sat it on a newspaper box.
"I couldn't believe the audacity this guy had," Hoarn said. "I mean it was a pretty brazen act. You got to think, coming to a police department or municipal building, there's got to be some kind of camera, especially on entrances."
An officer replaced the wreath, but a short time later authorities say they watched in amazement as a man allegedly swiped the wreath again--along with the hook it was hanging on--and took off. Police think it was Bailey.
"After I replaced it, the second time I (saw) him take it off and then leave," Patrolman Ricardo Sookhu said. "It was definitely strange."
Officer Ricardo Sookhu hustled out of the radio room after the wreath thief and got Bailey's license plate as he left the parking lot. Another officer found the wreath in the passenger seat of his car when Bailey arrived back at his home.
Some folks are speculating about why anyone would boldly swipe a Christmas wreath from the front door of town hall and the police department.
"It is kind of strange," Susan Smith of Manahawkin, N.J., said, "but you know times are tough right now. Maybe he's giving it to a needy family."
But Bailey offered no explanation to the judge at his arraignment or to reporters afterward.
"I'll be good to give you my attorney's name when I get one and you can speak to him," Louis Bailey said.
His reply when asked by reporters if he had anything to say about the case: "No."
"I'm in my 25th year here. Basically nothing surprises me if you've been on the job that long," said Lt. Gerry Jacobs of the Ewing Police Department.