CLEVELAND (WJW) — Construction workers assigned to a demolition project at the former Clark Elementary School in Cleveland were astounded when they showed up for work on Monday and discovered that equipment locked inside the building, including a forklift and a Bobcat, had been stolen.

Surveillance video from a nearby business revealed three men broke into the construction site along Train Avenue on Sunday afternoon. After forcing their way into the building, they drove away in the forklift and Bobcat, with a combined value of nearly $60,000.

But the crime didn’t pay for one of the suspects. Detectives said as he was making his getaway, the forklift crashed and flipped over, and he was last seen limping away.

When we asked Terry Haas, a longtime employee at a company on Train Avenue, what he thought about the thief’s misfortune, he responded with a chuckle.

“Payback. Karma.”

(Cleveland Division of Police)

Cleveland police released surveillance photos of the three suspects, taken at a nearby gas station carryout, shortly before they stole the heavy equipment. Those who make an honest living along Train Avenue suspect the thieves planned to sell the heavy equipment for cash to feed their addictions.

“They’re working for a living stealing, and I guess it’s just easy money,” said Haas.

When asked about the daylight break-in and equipment theft, another longtime Train Avenue worker, Jonathan Prell, told us, “You know, it’s probably someone who has some kind of background in some kind of machinery operation type of thing that can do that, because the guys down the street that work on the bridge — they’re getting stuff stolen left and right; converters, batteries and stuff like that.

“So it’s almost like a matter of time. If they know that you’re going to be here for any length of time, they’re going to come after you.”

Prell is among those who have grown weary of the rampant crime in the neighborhood around Train Avenue.

“Because it happens so often, you talk to all the business owners down here — some way or another, building gets vandalized; they get broken in. There’s not enough cops to help and all this kind of stuff and they just say, ‘Oh well,’” he said.

Anyone who can identify the three suspects or knows where investigators can find the stolen Bobcat is asked to call detectives in CPD’s Second District at 216-623-5218.