By Joe Johnson
A career criminal who reportedly threatened a detective in Athens was recently arrested after leading officers on a reckless high-speed chase.
According to an Athens-Clarke County police report, the incident occurred the evening of Dec. 15 when Det. Nathaniel Franco alerted fellow officers that 37-year-old Lonneshia Shafaye Appling of Ashley Circle had driven past his house in a U-Haul van, after having sent him threatening emails.
The detective has a history with Appling that dates to 2013, when the woman earned notoriety as the “Piggly Wiggly Bacon Thief,” for a shoplifting incident at the former Lexington Road supermarket in which Franco said he was involved as a patrol officer.
In that incident, according to police reports, Appling punched, spat at and pepper sprayed Piggly Wiggly employees as she attempted to make off with stolen beer, bacon, cheese and chicken wings before being arrested.
At the time, Appling already was well known in law enforcement circles for her penchant for shopping at stores without paying, with felony shoplifting convictions in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
Franco said that as a detective, he has investigated about 10 shoplifting cases involving Appling, one as recently as last month for which she was arrested.
“When she was arrested on Nov. 23, on her warrant here in Athens, she had stolen items from Victoria's Secret in her vehicle and on Dec. 6, I subsequently found more stolen clothing items in a trailer she was squatting in at Hallmark Mobile Home Park,” Franco said, adding that he helped identify Appling as the suspect in felony shoplifting cases in Gwinnett and Banks counties.
After the detective saw Appling driving by his house last Thursday, he “informed us that Appling was recently found with a gun on (her) person, and had multiple warrants out of different counties,” an officer wrote in the police report.
When Appling was located on Morton Road, she made a sudden U-turn and sped towards Lexington Road, driving the van over stop sticks, which had no effect on the vehicle, according to the report.
Once on Lexington Road, Appling reportedly sped westbound in the van, running a red light and driving over a second set of stop sticks in front of Cornerstone Church, but continued to speed erratically as the van weaved in and out of traffic and drove on the wrong side of the road.
At that point the Georgia State Patrol had joined the pursuit, and as Appling was about to pass the Waffle House on Oconee Street, she made another U-turn to turn onto Grove Street, where a GSP trooper stopped the van, according to the police report.
After being arrested at gunpoint, Appling told officers that she had a bag of fentanyl in a secret pocket of her bra, and the bag was removed by a female officer who was at the scene, according to the report, which noted that Appling head-butted one officer in the leg and tried to kick other officers.
The woman at one point fell to the ground and repeatedly tried to hit her head against a curb, according to the report, but she became cooperative after family members arrived.
The state trooper drove Appling to the hospital after she agreed to have her blood tested, and she was later booked into the county jail on six counts of failure to maintain lane, two counts of running a red light, and single counts each of simple battery against a law enforcement officer, felony and misdemeanor obstruction, fleeing in an attempt to elude, and possession of a Schedule II drug.
According to Franco, additional stolen clothing was recovered from the rental van.
“It appears that Appling had been driving around the state stealing clothing from various businesses for a period of time,” the detective said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Appling remained at the jail without bail being set, and with a hold on her release placed by the Banks County Sheriff’s Office.
Franco said that any Athens retailers who believe that Appling recently stole from their stores can contact him at (726) 400-7100.