By Joe Johnson
A shoplifter this week pulled a gun on an Athens grocery store employee who confronted the thief as he wheeled a shopping cart full of merchandise from the store, Athens-Clarke County police said.
The suspect, 47-year-old Garland Alan Paschal of Ashmore Drive, who was already wanted for two previous shoplifting incidents was arrested Tuesday after officers saw him as a passenger in a car that was subsequently stopped.
Paschal, who police called a “frequent and repeat shoplifter," began his most recent theft spree last month when he twice targeted Lowe’s on Lexington Road, stealing more than $1,000 in merchandise on March 19 and the following week stole more goods from the store that totaled in excess of $1,000 in value. Shoplifting items valued at more than $500 is a felony offense.
At about 2 p.m. Monday, a Walmart loss prevention employee contacted Athens-Clarke County police Det. Nathaniel Franco and sent him a photo of who they believed to be Paschal leaving their store, setting off the door alarm.
“They are still gathering evidence in that case, but Paschal is likely to be charged with shoplifting in that case as well,” Franco said.
Then, at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, a male walked out of Aldi on Gaines School Road with a shopping cart full of food, a rug and detergent, and when an employee followed him out, asking if he paid, the male yelled at the employee to get away and allegedly pulled a gun and pointed it at the employee, at which point the employee backed off and the thief fled with the shopping cart, according to police.
The Athens-Clarke detective determined that the thief was Paschal.
“I was able to match up the clothing that the Aldi suspect was wearing with the Wal-Mart footage and determine that it was the same suspect in both cases,” Franco said. “I was able to confirm that Paschal was the suspect and I obtained felony shoplifting warrants in the two Lowe's cases, and also a felony shoplifting warrant and aggravated assault warrant in the Aldi case. The Aldi case is a felony shoplifting, based on Garland having three prior convictions for shoplifting.”
Paschal was arrested later in the day Tuesday, when officers conducted a traffic stop in the Nellie B Avenue area on a vehicle in which Paschal was observed to be a passenger, police said.
“The Corona beer hat he wore in both the Walmart and Aldi incidents were recovered, as well as a very distinctive shirt with Pink Flamingos on it that he was wearing” in both those incidents, according to Franco.
In a search subsequent to the traffic stop, Paschal was found to have a crack pipe, police said.
The suspect was booked into the Clarke County Jail on three counts of felony shoplifting and one count each of aggravated assault and possession of a drug-related object.
He continued to be detained without bail being set as of Thursday afternoon.