Crime & Courts

Art thief targets district attorney’s exhibit

Alvin Curtis is accused of trying to steal three paintings from the lobby of the district attorney’s office. He made it one block before being captured.
Alvin Curtis is accused of trying to steal three paintings from the lobby of the district attorney’s office. He made it one block before being captured.

Note to aspiring art thieves:

If you’re planning a heist, don’t try it in broad daylight in uptown Charlotte. If it has to be in uptown, avoid targeting the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office. And if the artwork in the DA’s lobby proves irresistible, don’t make your getaway past the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Authorities say a Charlotte man broke all of those rules midday Tuesday. Alvin Curtis, 26, is in the Mecklenburg County jail on misdemeanor larceny charges.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., according to police, the suspect took three paintings off the wall of an art exhibit at the district attorney’s building on East Fourth Street. All were the works of Caroline Brown, one of several artists from the Ciel Gallery in SouthEnd who had contributed to the eight-week lobby show.

Brown said she learned of the attempted theft from an acquaintance who happened to be in Second Ward at the time.

“There are some paintings on the sidewalk and a man is in handcuffs,” the caller told Brown. “Does this have anything to do with you?”

Given the events of the day, the paintings that police say the suspect chose to take have ironic names. There’s “Lucky Guy,” “Bird on One Wheel (Goes downhill fast),” and “Bird on 2 Wheels (Rolls off to see the world).”

The suspect, according to the police report, ran off with all three in his arms. He was chased by Mark Shelton, a CMPD detective assigned to the district attorney’s office. He made it one block before Shelton ran him down – in front of the police station.

The district attorney’s office declined comment, citing that the incident is now an ongoing criminal matter.

Brown, though, was already contemplating “Misdemeanor Larceny” as the name of her next artistic work. And she admitted to a certain satisfaction.

“Someone liked my paintings so much, they decided to steal them,” she said. “I think I have to raise the prices.”

The Ciel artists have worked with the district attorney’s office before, adorning a room in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse for young victims and witnesses waiting to testify during trials.

Last month, 77 pieces from the gallery’s artists went on display in the lobby of the DA’s building. By Tuesday afternoon, Brown’s pieces had rejoined them. The exhibit remains available for public viewing through April 15.

A final two words of advice: Don’t touch.

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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