Princeton Towers evacuated after man sneaks in, breaks fire system


PRINCETON, WV (WVNS) — On Thursday, September 26, 2019, seniors living in Princeton Towers were startled by a loud alarm and water rushing through the building.

One resident said, “It was taking the ceiling out on the first floor.”

Shelia Edwards was there visiting her parents and her aunt.

“It was coming out of the walls, it was coming from everywhere,” said Edwards.

Princeton Fire Chief, Chad Bailey, said someone tampered with the fire system, forcing first responders to evacuate more than a dozen seniors from the apartment building.

“Arriving on scene they found that a gentleman had broken into a secure building and in order to kind of get away, he busted a sprinkler head and tried escaping,” Bailey said.

The Sprinkler main was broken completely free from the line, causing water to flow freely at a rate of 100 gallons per minute, drenching the first five floors. When police arrived, they arrested Randall Browning for destruction of property.

Patrolman W.W. McGuire said Browning appeared to be on meth.

“He advised me that at some point earlier in the evening he had been chased by several men in black clothes talking on radios,” said McGuire. “This type of paranoia is extremely common with people who use methamphetamine.”

Princeton Towers is a secure building and residents believe someone either let the man in or he followed a resident inside.

McGuire said the damage could be up to $50,000. While the ceiling and appliances will likely be replaced, some residents told 59News they lost their sense of security.

“They need somebody here to not let the people in that aren’t supposed to be in here,” said a resident.

The situation could have been much worse, but firefighters, volunteers, and the red cross worked all night to make sure everyone had a place to stay and something to eat. Maintenance crews said mold is not a concern and residents were able to return to their apartments Friday afternoon.

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