Man chan­nel­ing Santa left TVs at doorsteps

Hen­rico County, Va., res­i­dents both con­fused, amused

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Han­nah Natan­son

It was kind of like Christ­mas — ex­cept it was Au­gust, the only presents were vin­tage tele­vi­sion sets and Santa had a TV on his head.

Res­i­dents of more than 50 house­holds in Hen­rico County, Vir­ginia, woke up re­cently to find old-style TVs out­side their doorsteps, said Matt Pecka, a lieu­tenant with the lo­cal po­lice depart­ment. Pecka said po­lice be­gan re­ceiv­ing re­ports about the TVs early Aug. 12. Their phones were soon clogged with calls.

“Ev­ery­one started com­ing out of their houses, walk­ing around the neigh­bor­hood look­ing at the TVs there on the doorstep,” said Jeanne Brooks­bank, one of the recipients, who lives in the Hamp­shire neigh­bor­hood. “It was very ‘Twi­light Zone.’ ”

Each home re­ceived ex­actly one TV, care­fully placed so it faced in­ward to­ward the door, Brooks­bank said. Some de­liv­er­ies were caught on res­i­dents’ door­bell cam­eras — and that’s where things got truly bizarre. The givers had TVs in­stead of faces.

The home videos re­veal at least one of the de­liv­ery­men: a man wear­ing a blue jump­suit, black gloves and what ap­pear to be brown hik­ing-style boots. He wears a TV set on his shoul­ders, po­si­tioned so it ob­scures his face.

Pecka said po­lice be­lieve he had a helper: an­other man in a white jump­suit who also wore a TV as he made de­liv­er­ies.

“We deter­mined there was no cred­i­ble threat to res­i­dents and that this was strictly an in­con­ve­nience,” Pecka said. “It was” — long pause — “unique.”

After bor­row­ing a truck from the county’s Solid Waste depart­ment, a half-dozen po­lice of­fi­cers col­lected the tele­vi­sion sets in about an hour, Pecka said. The county will re­cy­cle them.

There was no ad­di­tional cost to res­i­dents, and the in­ci­dent didn’t im­pair nor­mal po­lice ac­tiv­ity, Pecka said. The depart­ment doesn’t plan to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther, he said, although of­fi­cials en­cour­age res­i­dents to con­tact po­lice if it hap­pens again.

Even if po­lice do iden­tify “TV Santa Claus,” as Jeanne Brooks­bank’s hus­band nick­named the giver, au­thor­i­ties prob­a­bly will not press charges. The “clos­est of­fense to this” would be leav­ing an unwanted item on pub­lic or pri­vate prop­erty, Pecka said.

“But I mean, one TV neatly placed on the front doorstep of each res­i­dent ... it wasn’t done in a ma­li­cious man­ner,” Pecka said.

At least one door­bell cam­era video shared with The Wash­ing­ton Post ap­pears to back that up.

The video shows a man in a blue jump­suit — a TV set perched atop his shoul­ders — care­fully as­cend­ing the steps of a porch in the predawn dark­ness. He clutches a TV in his arms and wears black gloves and brown hik­ing boots.

The man stops at the top of the stairs, turns and squats — Olympic weightlift­ingstyle — and places the TV on the porch, its screen turned to­ward the door. He pauses for a frac­tion of a sec­ond, as if to ad­mire his hand­i­work, and starts head­ing back the way he came.

Half­way down, he swivels and looks di­rectly at the cam­era. He cocks his head, waves three times and dis­ap­pears into the night.

“I think it was awe­some, light­hearted and so great to have a fun story like this, even though there are so many tragedies oc­cur­ring,” said Brooks­bank, 48, re­fer­ring to the deadly shoot­ings in Day­ton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. “I feel lucky I got a TV.”

Brooks­bank said the neigh­bor­hood has floated a few the­o­ries to ex­plain the TV dump: a col­lege sports team, maybe, or a fra­ter­nity prank. Pecka de­clined to elab­o­rate on any the­o­ries po­lice may be con­sid­er­ing.

It’s not the first time this has hap­pened. There was a sim­i­lar TV de­liv­ery last year in Glen Allen, in the Grey Oaks neigh­bor­hood in Hen­rico County. The TVs ap­peared around the same time of year — in late Au­gust — but there were fewer of them, Pecka said.

CBS 6 News re­ported that about 20 TVs were left on Glen Allen porches on Aug. 23 last year. Hen­rico po­lice in­ves­ti­gated, ac­cord­ing to CBS 6, but never iden­ti­fied the giver — and, un­like in the Hamp­shire neigh­bor­hood, there ap­peared to be no video.

In the hours after Brooks­bank first found a TV on her porch about 7 a.m. Sun­day, her fam­ily cy­cled through sur­prise, cu­rios­ity and mo­men­tary fear, she said. Her son, 18-year-old Chase Brooks­bank, at one point sug­gested leav­ing the house.

But he re­versed course, even­tu­ally pil­ing into a car with a few friends and driv­ing around the neigh­bor­hood to film a YouTube video doc­u­ment­ing the event.

As news of the TV giv­ing spree spread this week, some took to so­cial me­dia to share their con­fu­sion. Oth­ers loved it. Still oth­ers opined this could hap­pen only in Vir­ginia.

A hand­ful of Red­dit users pro­posed des­ig­nat­ing Aug. 11, the date of the TV drop-off, a hol­i­day dubbed “TV Day.” But the United Na­tions in 1996 al­ready pro­claimed Nov. 21 “World Tele­vi­sion Day.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.