Petty theft of mango may be charged as robbery

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — A man who allegedly shoplifted a package of sour candy, a Lipton Tea drink and a large mango could be facing a felony.

He was arrested for investigation of a robbery that netted $3.67 worth of goods.

Mountlake Terrace police took him into custody at a grocery store in the 23000 block of 56th Ave. W. on Monday night.

The suspect, 18, reportedly scuffled with the store manager who confronted him, upping the ante from misdemeanor shoplifting to felony robbery.

When two officers arrived, they were directed to aisle 14 where a witness was holding the suspect on the ground. He was yelling, “I’ll pay! I’ll pay!,” according to court records.

The suspect tried to argue that he did not commit a crime because he had not left the store.

When he was searched, police found a mango in the suspect’s right jacket pocket with a barcode sticker still on it.

The man wasn’t particularly cooperative.

When asked about his identity, he said, “Bang, bang,” court papers said.

He also gave an alias.

Witnesses told police that the suspect was past the checkstands and nearing the exit door when he was stopped by the manager. When he was detained, he reportedly started walking toward a card stand. He allegedly pushed the manager into the stand, which broke. He later also broke a juice stand.

The manager reported knee pain and a cut to his hand after the confrontation.

The suspect at one point broke free, but a bystander tackled him and held him on the ground until police arrived.

Each year, dozens of would-be shoplifters are arrested in Snohomish County for investigation of robbery when they are spotted by store security, try to run and become physical or threaten violence.

In doing so, a misdemeanor that routinely ends in a fine escalates into a potential felony with serious jail time.

“It’s tantamount to the guy who decides he is not going to stop for police and get a minor traffic ticket and he gets a felony instead and causes himself a lot more trouble,” Mountlake Terrace police Cmdr. Doug Hansen said. “It puts him in a soup that’s going to be hard to get out of. Being charged with a felony is a real life-changing event.”

U.S. retailers take a $13 billion annual hit at the hands of shoplifters, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. The nonprofit organization reports an average of 550,000 shoplifting incidents each day in the United States.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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