Toy gun lands suspected shoplifter in jail

See why his situation went from cock-sure to a Felony charge at a store in the Centennial neighborhood  …

At the Centennial Fred Meyer store, a suspected shoplifter ends up being charged with armed robbery. East Portland News archive image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In the middle of the afternoon on April 28, a man thought to be in his early 20s strolled into the Fred Meyer store on SE Division at SE 147th Avenue.

It soon became clear to the store’s Loss Prevention crew that this “shopper”, who ostensibly was at their pharmacy to pick up a prescription, had no intent of being a “buyer” of the merchandise he was stashing on and about his person.

When the store’s security team confronted the man, at about 3:30 p.m. as he was leaving the store, the shoplifting suspect made the first of two critical errors – he pulled a gun on them.

When the suspect flashes a “replica” gun like this one – which looks very real, and dangerous – his charge goes from simple shoplifting to armed robbery.

“Employees told police that the suspect then pointed a handgun at them and ran out of the store,” said Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

What might have been a simple shoplifting charge – an offence for which suspects are written a “Summons to Appear” ticket and released with a court date, the incident was elevated to the status of an armed robbery.

On SE Mill Street, just west of SE 146th Avenue, officers find the suspect for whom they are looking.

Then, the suspect made a second error in judgment. “Employees told police that the suspect then returned to the store to retrieve his prescription, and then ran out of the store again!” Simpson added.

With the information provided by the pharmacy, police knew for whom they were looking: 23-year-old Derek Damion Leigh.

PPB East Precinct District officers began looking for Leigh, and found the suspect about six blocks north of the alleged crime scene, near SE 146th Avenue and Mill Street.

“Officers searching the neighborhood located a replica firearm suspected of being used in the robbery,” Simpson reported, wrapping up the details.

nstead of being issued a shoplifting “ticket”, 23-year-old Derek Damion Leigh is now charged with armed robbery. MCDC booking photo

Leigh was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 7:13 p.m., and was arraigned the following day on two counts of Robbery in the Second Degree, a Class B Felony.

In lieu of a combined $500,000 bail, Leigh remains in custody at Multnomah County Inverness Jail. We don’t know if he was allowed to keep his prescription.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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