SUMTER, SC — An airman is facing charges of burglarizing a school after sheriff's deputies concluded an investigation into missing funds from High Hills Elementary School.
Michael Paul Wackford, 26, of Dalzell, faces three counts of second-degree burglary and three counts of possession of burglary tools after the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said hundreds of dollars from a school safe went missing on at least three separate occasions, once while the suspect was reportedly wearing his military uniform.
Law enforcement was first notified of the situation May 20, when school officials informed investigators they had captured the intruder on video. Administrators became suspicious when they noticed money missing from a safe kept on school grounds on Frierson Road near the northern gate of Shaw Air Force Base, according to the incident report.
They installed a hidden security camera near the safe, and about 11:35 p.m. May 19, the camera caught a man entering the safe wearing jean shorts, a green T-shirt and "some type of tool in his front pocket." At the time, about $100 was taken from the safe.
Later in the week, what appeared to be the same individual was captured on videotape at 10 p.m. May 23, this time removing about $70 from the safe while wearing a full military uniform. From that point, investigators were able to identify the suspect and took him into custody May 24.
Wackford is a staff sergeant who worked in the security police at Shaw, according to sheriff's office investigations commander Capt. Allen Dailey. He has no apparent connection to the elementary school. "We don't know why he would target them," Dailey said.
Investigators and school administrators are unsure how many times the school was entered. In the initial report, administrators said items may have been disappearing for six to eight weeks before the security camera was installed.
Likewise, it is unclear how much money was ultimately taken. Dailey estimated it at "less than a thousand dollars."
As a uniformed member of the Air Force, Wackford could face court martial charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in addition to the charges brought against him in civilian court. Efforts to reach public affairs officers at Shaw Air Force Base on Thursday were unsuccessful.