Man, 38, who climbed Miami cellphone tower is arrested after pulling cables, cops say

A 38-year-old man who climbed a 150-feet-tall cellphone tower in Allapattah while pretending to be a T-Mobile employee Wednesday morning — causing street closures and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage — has been arrested, Miami police said.

Richard Smith is charged with burglary of an unoccupied structure and criminal mischief, according to his arrest report. Smith’s jail and attorney information was not immediately available Wednesday afternoon.

Miami police and fire rescue negotiators got on a fire truck ladder after 7 a.m. to persuade Smith to come down, Miami police spokesman Officer Michael Vega told the Miami Herald. The Orange County man came down safely around 11 a.m. after causing up to $500,000 in damage, police said.

The streets near the cellphone tower at Northwest 13th Avenue and 29th Street, which were shut down to facilitate the rescue efforts, were reopened shortly after.

What happened earlier?

Around 5 a.m., a T-Mobile technician was notified that the cellphone tower had lost power, according to Smith’s arrest report.

As the technician was trying to figure out what caused the power outage, he spotted Smith pulling apart communication cables from antennas affixed to the tower, officers said.

When the technician asked Smith what he was doing there, Smith said he worked with T-Mobile and was making repairs, police said.

The technician called 911, and officers later saw Smith disassembling tower parts and throwing them down below before climbing even higher.

First responders were negotiating with a man who climbed a Miami cellphone tower at Northwest 13th Avenue and 29th Street in Allapattah on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, police said.
First responders were negotiating with a man who climbed a Miami cellphone tower at Northwest 13th Avenue and 29th Street in Allapattah on Wednesday, April 3, 2024, police said.

Around 11 a.m., Smith came down and was handcuffed.

Were cellphone services interrupted?

The damage to the tower, which cellphone providers lease from a vendor, did not affect T-Mobile’s customers, the company said in a statement to the Herald.

“Fortunately, everyone is safe and overlapping coverage in the area will continue to ensure customers remain connected,” T-Mobile said.

If you are thinking about harming yourself, call or text the 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.