A lot of people love Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s brightly hued portraits of a blue dog. But only one man from Metairie is accused of coveting them so much that he tried to steal them twice.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office booked Brandon Powers, 24, on a count of attempted theft Sunday after it said he tried to steal a Rodrigue work from East Jefferson General Hospital. Police in New Orleans, meanwhile, believe Powers is also responsible for the Mother’s Day theft of a Rodrigue print from a New Orleans frame shop.
Just why Powers zeroed in on Rodrigue’s work — or what he intended to do with the art once he got it — is unclear. But the cross-jurisdiction investigation into his alleged crimes began with a May 10 break-in at Avenue Art and Framing in Lakeview.
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About 2 a.m. that day, owner Tom Callia said, a burglar alarm went off at the gallery. When he arrived at the site with police, he said, they discovered that “whoever broke into it meticulously took the window out, and didn’t break the glass.”
At first, Callia did not know what was stolen. But days later, when the gallery prepared to frame a customer’s order, it discovered that it was missing a $1,200 print of Rodrigue’s “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” completed shortly before his December 2013 death.
Police combed the scene. They secured video from a gas station across the street. Perhaps most crucially, Officer Frank Robertson said, they found a palm print and connected it to Powers.
NOPD detectives went to Powers’ home on Academy Drive in Metairie and arrested him in the Lakeview break-in. At the same time, according to an arrest record, he was questioned by JPSO detectives about the March 9 attempted theft of a Blue Dog 9/11 tribute print by Rodrigue worth an estimated $25,000 from the atrium of East Jefferson General Hospital.
Powers matched a man seen on video in the attempted hospital heist, the arrest record states.
It is not clear whether authorities are investigating Powers in connection with the April theft of a quickly recovered $250,000 Blue Dog painting from the Rodrigue Gallery on Royal Street.
The George Rodrigue Foundation did not return a request for comment.
If Powers was hoping to sell the Rodrigue print, police have offered no reason why he kept it in his house for two weeks.
But Callia, the frame shop owner, offered one possible explanation.
“I guess he just liked blue dogs,” Callia said.