FAIRFIELD — Christopher Wallace, wanted by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office in connection with a Pierce Pond Township burglary, made two mistakes Sunday night.
The first one was posting a message on Snapchat saying he was back in his Norridgwock Road home after the department made it public several weeks ago they were looking for him.
The department was tipped off about the post, and that’s when Wallace, 24, made his second mistake.
The sheriff’s office said he posted another Snapchat message saying the police were in the house looking for him and he was hiding in a cabinet.
The new message prompted more phone calls to a department dispatcher and police easily found him in the cabinet.
Wallace learned the hard way that if you live by social media, there is more than one way to die by social media.
After Wallace was arrested, amused deputies took to social media themselves, posting a message on the department’s Facebook page chronicling Wallace’s poor social media decisions.
The department has touted its Facebook page as a key tool to help solve cases and keep in touch with members of the community. Almost 2,900 people “like” the page, and department staff update it frequently.
Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster confirmed the details when asked about the post Monday. He said one concern about such posts is that making public the source of tips could compromise the identity of informants and make people reluctant to give tips in the future.
The sheriff’s office received a phone call about the first Snapchat post about 6:30 p.m. Snapchat is a messaging service that automatically deletes messages seconds after a user posts them.
Cpl. Ritchie Putnam, Deputy Ron Blodgett and two Fairfield police officers went to the residence at 336 Norridgewock Road and found Erika Hall, 20, of Waterville, at the home, Lancaster said.
Hall allowed officers to search the home after they told her they had information that Wallace was there, Lancaster said.
Wallace was wanted by the sheriff’s office on burglary charges stemming from the January theft of propane and wood stoves in Pierce Pond Township.
In late February, the sheriff’s office asked for help from the public to find Wallace after recovering the propane stove at his home.
During the course of the search Sunday night, Wallace posted the second message on Snapchat, saying that police were looking for him in the house and he was hiding in a cabinet, according to the posting. The new message prompted more phone calls to department dispatchers.
“A search of the kitchen cabinets turned up some food, some pots and pans, and also a pair of feet,” the Facebook post said. “The pair of feet just so happened to be attached to a person, and that person was Christopher Wallace. He was removed from the cabinet and placed under arrest.”
Fairfield Police Chief Thomas Gould said that according to a report filed by the members of his department, police officer Casey Dugas opened cabinets in the kitchen of the home, saw the feet, ordered Wallace to step out and made the arrest with the assistance of officer Patrick Mank. The Fairfield officers made no mention of a Snapchat posting in their report, Gould said.
In the post, the sheriff’s office said that Wallace had become cocky after the department asked for help from the public to locate him.
“All of that brings me to the moral of the story. Always remain humble, my friends,” the post states.
Lancaster confirmed the version of events posted on the department’s Facebook page in an interview Monday, but appeared not to know that the information had been posted.
“It’s unfortunate it got on there,” Lancaster said.
Maintaining the confidentiality of informant’s identities is critical to making sure that people continue to provide his office with information, and he didn’t want to uncover the people who tipped police off in this case, he said.
According to police, Hall said that Wallace was not in the house, and she had not seen him in weeks when the officers searched the residence.
Wallace was charged with burglary, theft and violation of conditions of release. Hall was also arrested and charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution.
In a Morning Sentinel article last week about the Facebook page, the department said it has led to half a dozen arrests and said it helps the department connect with the community.
“The Facebook page has proved to be an excellent tool in communicating with the public and has allowed public participation in some of these harder to solve cases,” Deputy Chief James Ross said.
Peter McGuire — 861-9239