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Search warrant: Cohen shown on surveillance video at time of fire

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A Salisbury businessman accused of setting fire to a business told police he was home at the time of the fire despite being shown on security footage, according to search warrants filed this week by the Salisbury police.

Thomas “Tommy” Cohen, 60, president of J. Newton Cohen Heating and Air Conditioning, is the son of longtime Rowan County commissioner and Chairman J. Newton Cohen. He was charged with felony breaking and entering, felony burning other buildings and felony larceny after breaking and entering.

Police allege Tommy Cohen set fire to a suite in a building that housed Salisbury Millwork, which is a company owned by Bobby Clay Lindsay. County tax records show the building, located at 823 Corporate Circle, is owned by Clear Choice Investments. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to Salisbury Millwork.

The search warrant, filed on Wednesday, showed Salisbury police detective Jacob Easler, Lindsay and Salisbury Fire Marshal Terry Smith watched the security footage together. Smith identified the person in the video as Tommy Cohen, warrants stated.

The video reportedly showed a man went inside the business on Feb. 16 at 2:26 a.m. Warrants stated he’s seen standing outside the main office area and under a stairwell leading to a loft area used for storage, which the fire marshal determined the fire originated.

“Cohen is seen wearing a blue and white plaid shirt, blue jeans and brown shoes,” the search warrant said.

He also reportedly could be seen walking to the area of one of the security cameras shortly before the security feed was terminated at 2:29 a.m. Someone saw the building on fire at 3:12 a.m.

After the fire was extinguished, Lindsay realized he was missing a computer CPU. The warrant says three work vehicles parked in the vicinity of the burning building were vandalized.

A detective located Cohen at his home and asked him to meet the detective at the Salisbury Police Department. Cohen arrived at the police department at 6:51 a.m. where he was interviewed, the search warrant said.

In the interview, Cohen told the detective he was at work until 11 p.m. on Feb. 15 and then returned home to sleep before being awakened by police.

Other items seized, according to the search warrant, were: a black flip cell phone; black Skechers work shoes; a pair of Lee brand blue jeans; and a white, blue and orange plaid button-up shirt from Cohen’s Webb Road home.

Cohen is scheduled for a court appearance in April and is represented by Salisbury attorney James Davis.

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