Local News

Police: Identity thief tried to break into Durham Social Security office

Posted September 19, 2013 5:36 a.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2013 5:18 p.m. EDT

A man was taken into custody by Durham police early Thursday after he allegedly broke into the Social Security building in the 3000 block of Tower Boulevard.

— Police arrested a Chapel Hill man early Thursday after he allegedly tried to break into a Social Security Administration office in Durham through the building's roof.

Brendan Phillip Cannell, 25, was treated at a hospital Thursday for an arm injury he suffered when he jumped from the roof trying to flee police. Upon his release, he was charged with felony breaking and entering, damage to property and resisting, delaying and obstructing officers.

Officers responded to the Social Security building, at 3004 Tower Blvd., at about 1 a.m. after an alarm went off. When they arrived, they heard loud banging sounds and saw a man moving around on the roof of the building.

The man refused to comply with officers' demands to come down, so they fired shots at him, believing him to be a potential imminent deadly threat, police said. He wasn't wounded by the gunfire.

Police apprehended the man shortly after he jumped from the roof. They didn't say if he had any weapons.

A hole about a foot wide was cut into the building's roof, but metal sheeting underneath the roof appears to have prevented further access to the building. Police also found a second, smaller hole in the roof.

Social Security officials said no files in the Durham office were compromised.

Although police haven't released details on the motive for the attempted break-in, they said Cannell was on federal probation for identity theft and credit card fraud charges.

Federal court documents state that Cannell used forged keys to break into a state Division of Motor Vehicles office in Carrboro in 2008, where he stole personal information of scores of people who had obtained driver's licenses.

A search of his home turned up a list of DMV offices with hand-drawn sketches of keyholes, and investigators found books on picking locks, documents and credit cards in other people's names at his parents house, according to federal court documents.

Investigators also found records related to making and obtaining explosives and letters outlining plans to use stolen identities to amass wealth and then recruit a team to rob banks and armored cars. When he was arrested, he told authorities that he found criminal activity to be "addicting," court records state.

Court records show that Cannell was released from federal prison last December, and he now lives with his parents in Chapel Hill and is studying computer programming at Durham Technical Community College.

Kammie Michael, a spokeswoman for the Durham Police Department, said investigators are reviewing the officers' decision to fire at Cannell. She didn't say whether anyone had been taken off patrol pending the outcome of the review.