LAWRENCE — A man arrested as he attempted to break into Kenner Shoe on Essex Street early Thursday morning was wearing clothing taken during a previous break at the store, police said.

Officers Ivan Melendez, William Colantuoni, Carl Farrington, Christopher Bussey and Detectives John Heggarty and Jaime Brito surrounded the building at 351 Essex St., about 12:03 a.m. yesterday in response to a call from a tenant in the building next door reporting someone smashing a wall to get into the store.

Police said the store owner, Joamil Rodriguez, could hear the banging while he was on the telephone with the tenant.

Sgt. James Raso and Officer Allen Demers found the front door to the store was secure, and began ringing the doorbells to the apartments to get someone to let them in.

A man came downstairs to let the officers in and they proceeded to an area of the building that had been damaged during previous breaks and where the banging was coming from.

As the officers made their way to a rear stairwell they found a man completely covered in drywall dust who was trying to hide under a stairwell.

The man, later identified as Carlos Baez, 42, of 10 Grafton St., told police he was going home to Grafton Street when they asked him what he was doing.

The officers found a backpack and a red sweater, also covered with drywall dust where Baez had been hiding.

He denied gaining entry to the store or stealing anything from it.

Police waited for the storeowner to arrive and unlock the front door so they could search the store for other suspects.

There were several holes in the wall caused by a hammer-like tool and one appeared to be large enough for someone to crawl through, police said.

While Baez was being booked at the police station, officers discovered he had an arrest warrant for breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony from Lawrence District Court.

Raso spoke to the store owner at the police station and the owner was able to positively identify all the items of clothing and sneakers Baez was wearing as items that were stolen from a previous break at the store.

Baez was charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony for the fresh break, possession of burglary tools and malicious destruction of property over $250.

Police chief John Romero said yesterday Baez had not been charged with the earlier break in which the clothes he was wearing were stolen, because that investigation is continuing.

Romero said the break supports what police have believed all along, that commercial breaks in the area were not well-planned and were the result of someone looking for an opportunity.

Romero said investigators would try to determine whether breaks at the Enblen Sports store on Essex Street and AJ Fashion on Newbury Street, where quantities of clothing were stolen were connected to the shoe store break.

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