Rossville police arrest suspect in Sunday copper theft that led to oil spill

46-year-old Christopher Shane Nichols faces a felony charge of second degree burglary in Walker County, and Rossville Police say additional charges are possible. (Images: Walker County Government)

Rossville Police have arrested a suspect in connection to the copper theft at the Coats American building that led to an oil spill on Sunday.

Walker County spokesman Joe Legge says a resident noticed an oily sheen Sunday night and told a Rossville police officer, who traced the leak to the Coats American building on Maple Street.

Once inside, they found an industrial transformer, containing a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) warning label, had been tipped over in order to remove a copper coil.

The vandalism caused an oil spill and hazmat and SRT Safety, an environmental clean-up company, arrived on the scene. Other transformers in the building had been tampered with to steal copper, but didn't have the PCB label.

Police found a couple bags of copper, tools, and clothing left behind. With the help of area scrap metal dealers, they took 46-year-old Christopher Shane Nichols into custody.

“Officer Dewayne Llewellyn should be commended for his quick action and resourcefulness in this case," says Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield. "His decision to make fliers and pass them out at area scrap metal locations helped develop leads that might not have materialized.”

Nichols faces a felony charge of second degree burglary in Walker County, and Rossville Police say additional charges are possible. He also has been charged with auto theft in East Ridge in an unrelated case.

Spokesman Joe Legge says SRT contained the oil to an area on the Coats American property, and placed booms along a half mile stretch from Williams Street Tributary to State Line Road to absorb any residual oil that made it into the storm water.

Investigators believe only a small amount of oil leaked beyond the property.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

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