Man Electrocuted In Copper Theft

A Longview man was electrocuted during an apparent copper theft, in what investigators say is rapidly growing crime. It happened Thursday afternoon on Meadows lane, just off I-20 in Gregg county. Investigators say two men were trying to cut the copper from a power pole, when one of them contacted a live wire, and was electrocuted.

Gregg county sheriffs deputies say the theft of salvage copper from power poles has been something they've seen a lot of in recent months and that remote and oil field locations have become favorite targets of theses thefts. But the latest attempt cost a Longview man his life Thursday.

"What we've seen is the recent price of salvage copper has gone up to where those that are involved in this type of crime are taking those chances to salvage it for money" said captain Ken Hartley of the Gregg county sheriffs office.

37 year old Robert Boyd Southard junior was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators say Southard grabbed a live power line hanging from a pole and was electrocuted. Evidently it's a risk that some are willing to take, with the price of copper at over 2 dollars a pound, a good living can be made.

"There's a danger level and at this point in time it's taken a life and we don't want to see other people lose their lives over this theft" Hartley said.

Southard's partner, 37 year old Downey Casey, was arrested and charged with attempted theft. Scrap recycler Mike Jennings says they get a lot of copper, and a couple hundred pounds of it can be a good payday.

"The price of copper is at historic highs we've never seen levels like this" Jennings says.

But he takes precautions to watch who is trying to sell it.

"Anything over 50 pounds or even smaller amounts we get a drivers license , signature also they're recorded" says Jennings.

It's a crime that has no answer at this time. Police hope others wont take the risk to get copper.

"People have lost their life just as this young man did last night" said Hartley.

Downey Casey is being held on 5 thousand dollars bond. Southard's body has been sent to Tyler for autopsy.

Bob Hallmark /