A career shoplifter was arrested late Wednesday afternoon after she punched and pepper-sprayed employees at an Eastside supermarket when they caught her trying to steal groceries, Athens-Clarke police said.
A customer alerted a store employee about 5:15 p.m. that she saw 26-year-old Lonneshia Shafaye Appling concealing items in a canvas bag in her shopping cart at Piggly Wiggly, 4025 Lexington Road, police said.
When employees tried to stop Appling from leaving the store, she punched one of them in the face and pepper-sprayed the other before running out the back of the store, according to police.
An officer who happened to be in the area was quickly on the scene, and he choked upon entering the store because there air was so heavy with pepper spray, according to police. There was so much residual pepper spray that firefighters later had to ventilate the store with fans.
Employees described the shoplifter as a large black woman in a purple dress, and when the officer heard a woman screaming outside the rear of the store, he found Appling yelling at two employees who had chased her, police said. Several cans of Coors Light beer were scattered on the ground nearby, police said, and employees told the officer they were among the items Appling tried to steal.
Appling, who weighs at least 300 pounds, ignored several commands by the officer to place her hands behind her back so she could be handcuffed, but a backup officer helped to place her into custody, police said.
Appling, of 115 Sena Drive, was charged with felony theft by shoplifting not because of the value of the items she tried to steal — $88.27 — but because she had more than three previous shoplifting convictions, police said.
In addition to the beer, she tried to steal vegetable oil, five packs of cheese, five packs of bacon and two packs of chicken wings, police said.
In addition to shoplifting, Appling was also charged with aggravated assault, simple battery, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a law enforcement officer, police said.
At the time, she was wanted for a felony probation violation because of a shoplifting arrest in Madison County in January, according to Clarke County Superior Court records. Authorities in Oconee and Fulton counties also had warrants for her arrest, police said.