LUFKIN, Texas – A Texas law enforcement officer was arrested Monday on federal charges he stole pieces of space shuttle Columbia.
Harrison County Constable Robert Hagan II, 45, became the third person charged with looting shuttle debris that dropped onto the countryside.
Hagan was charged with theft of government property for allegedly taking a piece of tile and other debris while helping with the recovery effort Feb. 1 and 2 in the Nacogdoches area.
"It is a particularly troubling day when an individual who swore to uphold the law is charged with stealing evidence and hindering this historic investigation," U.S. Attorney Matthew Orwig said.
Officials are investigating 10 to 20 possible cases of people taking debris, Orwig said.
Hagan appeared before a federal magistrate Monday and was released on $5,000 bail. A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 27.
Court documents indicate Hagan showed some of the items to another law enforcement official, claiming he was allowed to keep them. A few days later, that law enforcement official notified authorities.
In Texas, constables are primarily responsible for serving court papers and working as courtroom bailiffs, though they sometimes write tickets, patrol or do other police work. They are elected to four-year terms.
Last week, federal authorities in Texas declared a three-day amnesty period during which anyone who stole pieces of the shuttle could return them without fear of prosecution. The period ended Friday afternoon.