Durham police fire shots during suspected Social Security office break-in

akenney@newsobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

Brendan Cannell - 2013.

— Police fired their weapons at a suspected intruder on the roof of a Social Security Administration office early Thursday morning. When the smoke cleared, they arrested a suspect who was not wounded, but has a history of elaborate identity theft.

The encounter began about 1 a.m. when officers responded to an alarm call and discovered Brendan Cannell, 25, making “loud banging sounds” atop the building at 3004 Tower Boulevard, according to police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

Officers fired their guns at the suspect after he refused to comply with their repeated “challenges” and seemed to pose a “potential imminent deadly threat,” Michael said in a news release.

Although Cannell wasn’t wounded by the gunfire, he hurt his arm when he jumped off the roof. Police took him to a hospital, then to Durham County’s jail on Thursday afternoon.

The incident didn’t cause delays or disruptions at the Social Security office, which opened on schedule Thursday.

“No Social Security records were compromised, and the damage is being repaired today,” Patti Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration, wrote in an email Thursday.

Cannell is charged with a federal probation violation, felony breaking and entering, damage to property, and resisting, delaying and obstructing officers, according to police.

This wasn’t the first time Cannell found trouble at a government office. He is on federal probation for a complex intrusion at a state Division of Motor Vehicles office in Carrboro in 2008, according to Durham police.

The suspect’s previous “scheme to steal identities” resulted in a “known loss of over $18,000,” according to a 2009 filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Cannell admitted to police that year that he had used a video camera with a telephoto lens to capture the shape of the keys for the Carrboro DMV office, the report states.

The document alleges that Cannell then had a locksmith cut a matching key, which he used to enter the office and install key stroke-logging devices on the computer terminals where applicants enter personal information for driver’s licenses.

Ten days after Cannell’s admission of the scheme, DMV staff spotted his vehicle and camera outside the DMV office. In a subsequent interview, he told police that criminal activity was an “addiction.”

Police during their 2009 investigation discovered that Cannell’s computers held instructions for making explosives, documents related to fertilizer purchase and coordinates for locations such as Fort Bragg, Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, and a Durham gun store, according to the federal filing.

The computers also contained a letter outlining plans to find weapons, train in forgery and combat, and recruit a team for “various heists,” the attorney’s office reported.

Cannell later admitted to aggravated identity theft and three other counts, receiving a sentence in 2011 of 40 months in prison.

Cannell was released from federal prison in December into his parent’s custody in Chapel Hill, court records state.

He was enrolled as of July in Durham Technical Community College.

The Durham Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division and Professional Standards Division will investigate the Thursday morning incident, as is standard procedure when officers use force.

Kenney: 919-829-4870

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