GAINESVILLE, GA (CBS46) - A thief is breaking into hearses, of all things, and stealing items inside, including the stretchers that funeral homes use to transport dead people.
Three separate funeral homes were targeted in Gainesville, which is about 55 miles northeast of Downtown Atlanta.
One of the funeral homes went ahead with a funeral Wednesday afternoon despite being short on rolling cots.
Hearing news that someone is going around town stealing beds from funeral homes, Gainesville residents are shaking their heads trying to make sense of it all.
"That's bizarre to me," said resident Royce Ray, "I don't understand why they would even think about doing something like that."
Gainesville Police released surveillance video of the suspect breaking into hearses in the parking lot of Ward's Funeral Home.
Jimmy Brewer is the owner Ward's, and he said the thief didn't succeed in stealing a bed from him, but was able to do a lot of damage while trying.
"They were unable to get the back door of the hearse open," said Brewer, "They did bust the window out, but they were unable to get the back door open."
The thief is seen on surveillance video wrapping his hand in some type of towel or cloth to protect himself from breaking glass.
"He had something in his hand, and he just walked up to the window and knocked it out," Brewer said.
The suspect appears to be balding and was smoking a cigarette as he tried to break into the hearse. He came prepared with a minivan in his attempt to carry the stretcher away.
One of the other funeral directors said he didn't think to warn the other funeral homes in Gainesville because he thought what happened to him was a fluke. Maybe kids were playing a joke, or someone was just taking anything they could get their hands on.
He said he had no idea that someone was specifically going after his industry and looking for stretchers in particular.
Alicia English, of the Georgia Funeral Directors Association, said she heard of this scheme occurring several times in South Georgia since October.
She believes the suspects are calling other funeral homes after stealing the beds and asking if they want to buy it. They pretend to be a body transport service that is going out of business.
English urges all funeral homes in Georgia and surrounding states to be wary of these offers and she encourages everyone to invest in a security camera.
If you have any information that could help the investigation, or you recognize the suspect in the video, Gainesville Police want to hear from you - (770) 534-5252.
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