Student must pay thousands in restitution for damaging UW-EC residence hall

Dec. 6—EAU CLAIRE — A UW-Eau Claire student must pay more than $23,000 in restitution for damaging the basement of a residence hall on upper campus.

Zachary A. Cunningham, 21, of New Richmond, pleaded guilty Monday in Eau Claire County Court to a felony count of criminal damage to property. A felony count of burglary was dismissed.

As part of a one-year deferred agreement with prosecutors, the criminal damage to property charge will be dismissed if Cunningham pays a $300 fine, $23,374 in restitution, commits no new crimes, performs 50 hours of community service, has no contact with UW-Eau Claire buildings and writes a letter of apology.

Cunningham has already paid nearly $19,000 in restitution.

According to the criminal complaint:

Custodial staff alerted UW-Eau Claire police to the damage on the morning of Feb. 2.

Damage was done to several doors, a chair and two card swipe readers, and wiring was ripped from a hallway ceiling. A fire extinguisher was used to spray foam on the floor. Shredded music room noise insulation foam was scattered inside one room.

Black and blue paint was used to make obscene images on the floor of another room. A floor scrubber was damaged. It appeared to have been used to damage the doors.

From the custodial break room, a set of keys and a radio were missing. The radio was valued at $700. The value of the damaged card swipe readers totaled nearly $4,000.

Surveillance camera images showing a male in the basement area identified Cunningham as the suspect. He is a resident of The Suites, which is an upperclassman hall that opened in 2019.

During an interview with police, Cunningham said he gained access to the basement by buying service keys from Amazon. He said he visited the basement on more than one occasion, mostly to explore.

Cunningham didn't know how much damage he caused to doors in the basement. "Why I was going in there, I don't know," he said.

Cunningham said he didn't think he took anything while he was in the basement rooms.

Cunningham said he had been drinking the night the damage occurred. He said his "thinking skills that night (were) not ideal." He said he drank a lot that night and was alone. No one else knows about his involvement.

He said there was no significance to the paint being put on the floor.

Cunningham said he doesn't know why he damaged the basement. He admitted he shielded his face from the surveillance cameras in an effort to conceal his identity. He said he used gloves because his hands were getting dirty and he didn't want to leave fingerprints.

Cunningham said he couldn't remember anything else from that night.

After examining Cunningham's phone, police found three videos he took of his activity in the basement on a Snapchat app.

One of the videos showed him riding a floor scrubber and using it to ram into doors. A second video is captioned with "college is sick bro." A third video showed him on the roof of The Suites. Students do not have permission to be on the roof.