Rocky Mountain News
For sign pilferer, politicians aren't only ones falling flat on their face
By Lynn Bartels
A Lakewood Republican stealing campaign signs late one night got nabbed when he ran across a low- hanging driveway chain, fell face first onto a pilfered sign and the concrete and knocked himself unconscious.
Randal Wagner, 50, was loaded into an ambulance, treated at Lutheran Medical Center for abrasions and facial cuts and issued a summons.
Wagner, who unsuccessfully tried to steal a "Dave Thomas" congressional sign that evening, had signs for other Democratic candidates in his Toyota pickup, Wheat Ridge police reported.
"I did a very stupid thing," Wagner said Monday, admitting theft of the signs. "I got caught up in the political passions of this highly contested election."
Wagner said that he and his wife, Jan, who was driving their pickup that night, "want to apologize to the people" they have offended.
"Everybody has a right to express their political opinions," Randal Wagner said.
Jan Wagner, who was not cited, said she did not want to discuss what happened. She also is a Republican.
The incident with the Wagners comes at a time when a record number of Democrats and Republicans are complaining that their signs are disappearing or being vandalized.
Wheat Ridge resident Pete Klammer, whose 911 call last Wednesday eventually led police to the Wagners, said his frustration is that people mistakenly believe only their party is the victim.
He said a Republican neighbor who lost two yard signs insisted, "It's not happening to Democrats."
Klammer said that late last Wednesday, shortly after the last presidential debate had ended, his wife heard a noise outside.
Klammer said when he walked outside with his cell phone, he saw a pickup parked at the curb and someone using a box-cutter to try to take the "Dave Thomas" sign he had bolted to his fence, clearly on his property.
Thomas is the Democratic candidate in the 7th District. Klammer said an earlier Thomas sign had been vandalized.
Klammer said he and the stranger tussled over the sign. As Klammer relayed the plate number on the pickup to police, he said the man hopped into the passenger side and the pickup fled west on West 32nd Avenue past Simms Street.
Police said the pickup was registered to Jan and Randal Wagner, but they were not home.
Later that night, the officer heard Jan Wagner's name on the police radio and investigated. It turns out that other officers had discovered a man, identified as Randal Wagner, down in front of an office building at West 42nd and Kipling streets.
Police said Randal Wagner had been stealing a campaign sign that promotes the Jefferson County school district's tax and bond election when he fell and hurt himself.
Police said Jan Wagner was parked across the street and had about two dozen campaign signs in the pickup. They include signs for U.S. Senate candidate Ken Salazar and district attorney candidate Mary Malatesta.
"Jan said she and her husband have never done anything like this (taking signs) before," according to the police report.