Missing bookstore merchandise leads to arrest, firing

Amye Buckley

Missing bookstore items have led to the suspicion and arrest of a former Missouri Southern employee.

For the past few weeks bookstore employees have noticed an increasing number of items disappearing from the shelves. On Sept. 6, a DPS officer installed hidden cameras in the bookstore. The Sept. 8 security tape showed a woman and child in the building, and the camera was left in place to record further actions. When bookstore employees reviewed the tape on Sept. 11, they had enough evidence to call DPS.

“We reviewed the hidden cameras and there he was stealing stuff,” said Ken Kennedy, director of public safety, referring to the suspect.

The Sept. 10 tape showed a man and woman entering the bookstore after 9 p.m. and taking clothing items. Ken Johnson, custodian for the bookstore, was identified as the man on the tape.

Kennedy called Joplin police and Johnson was terminated from his job and arrested when he arrived for his shift.

“You know it’s a bad day when the H.R. director and the police are waiting for you when you come in to work,” Kennedy said.

Initially, the case was processed as non-felony. The Joplin Police Department lists more than $250 worth of blankets and clothing. The DPS report notes more than $500 of items were missing from Sept. 10 to Sept. 11.

The bookstore reported a total of $12,821.66 in missing items for several weeks prior to Johnson’s arrest.

“Later on when he brought the stuff back and they looked at the video more they were able to make it over $500,” Kennedy said. “So he is being charged with felony receiving stolen property.

“Not near all the stuff has been recovered,” he added. “I think he was giving it away to people. I think he was selling it to people on campus and some of it he was just wearing and using for personal use.”

The locks to the bookstore were changed, and Johnson was banned from campus. It is not the first time Kennedy had used hidden cameras to solve bookstore theft, and in the future Kennedy plans to keep a closer eye on the problem.