HALLOWELL — A Dresden man who reportedly stole $40 in lunch money from a school cafeteria said he needed the money to heat his home, police said.

The man, Christopher Cope, 46, was issued a criminal summons Tuesday charging him with theft, according to Police Chief Eric Nason.

Nason said Cope has admitted to the theft, which was captured by a video surveillance camera at Hall-Dale Elementary School.

“He was cooperative during the investigation,” Nason said.

More than 400 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students attend the school.

The theft happened the night of Jan. 4 while Cope’s son was playing in a high school basketball game in the school’s gymnasium. Nason said Cope went into the kitchen through an opening in the tray counter and snatched $40 left by parents for their children’s lunch.

“He went in there, took the $40 and walked out,” Nason said.

School officials discovered the missing money Monday morning and reported the theft to police.

Cope told police he used the money to buy kerosene to heat his home, a claim that police are still investigating, Nason said.

Police officer Christopher Hutchings, who investigated the theft, charged Cope on Tuesday.

Nason praised school officials for discovering the missing money and preserving the video evidence of the theft.

On Tuesday, Regional School Unit 2 Superintendent Virgel Hammonds declined to comment on the theft. He also declined to say where the money was kept. He commended the staff for discovering the theft.

“The staff followed protocol perfectly,” Hammonds said.

Cope is scheduled to appear in Augusta District Court at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 22.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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