A Virginia man accused of stealing two signs from parks honoring victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and calling a victim’s family to say the Newtown shooting was a hoax has been arrested, police said Friday.
Andrew David Truelove, 28, was arrested in Herndon, Virginia, with the help of police in Connecticut.
Truelove is accused of stealing a memorial sign for 7-year-old Grace McDonnell from a park in Mystic, Connecticut, and another for 7-year-old Chase Kowalski from a park in Mantoloking, New Jersey. Both signs were stolen about a month ago.
After allegedly stealing the sign from the park honoring McDonnell, he called the slain girl's mother to say her daughter "never existed" and that the shooting was a hoax, according to one of the playground's supporters.
Herndon police told NBC Washington that Truelove may be a conspiracy theorist who believes that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged to trigger stricter gun laws. He is banned from a school property in Herndon, according to police.
"It's hard to explain the 'why,' because from our perspective it doesn't appear rational, that type of thought process," Herndon Police chief Maggie DeBoard told NBC Washington. "We know Sandy Hook occurred, obviously there are a lot of victims in that case. So I can't explain the 'why.'"
Police searched a room Truelove rented at a home outside Washington and found the two stolen signs. Truelove has been charged with possession of stolen property and is being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
Police say blogger and reporter Chez Pazienza of The Daily Banter helped to track down the suspect. Pazienza wrote an open letter asking the thief to come forward, and he received a response, including photographs of the signs in a living room.
"I was really angry and I wanted to see this person go down for this," Pazienza told NBC Connecticut in a Skype interview Friday. "I wasn't just going to let it go."
Truelove's father, Alan, says that his son didn't steal the signs.
"They're chasing the wrong fella," Alan Truelove told NBC Washington. "So police have this investigation completely wrong."
Police in Virginia said grand larceny charges in Connecticut and New Jersey are pending. Investigators may upgrade his charges to felonies, NBC Washington reported.
The arrest comes after Connecticut police contacted Virginia authorities with a possible address for a suspect, police said. Police from Stonington, Connecticut, will travel to Virginia to get the sign for the park in Mystic next week.