LILBURN — A man who tried to steal a frozen pizza from a Family Dollar and then wrestled with a police officer, was shot twice on Monday afternoon, police said.
Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley said an officer responded to 5279 Lawrenceville Highway at about 2 p.m. after store employees reported a shoplifter in the store. Hedley said the officer had enough information to confront the suspect in front of a cash register and charge him with shoplifting.
But a struggle ensued and the two men fell to the ground, Hedley said, before the officer deployed a city-issued Taser to subdue the man, believed to be in his late 50s or early 60s.
Then, “in an instant it seems,” the officer said the suspect snatched the Taser from the officer.
That’s when the officer shot the man twice, once in the chest and once in the face.
Hedley said the suspect didn’t have any form of identification with him, and Lilburn police would try to identify him through fingerprints. The suspect was in critical condition at Gwinnett Medical Center, Hedley said. The officer was not injured.
When the incident began, the man had frozen pizza “stuck in his shirt,” and was caught by employees, though he initially was going to pay for some of the items, Hedley said. An officer asked store employees if they wanted to prosecute the man for the items, and they said they did because they were “tired of him coming in multiple times.”
Hedley said the fact that the man tried to steal frozen pizza was “very tragic in itself.” The man also had a dog with him that was tied up outside the store.
Hedley said this kind of situation is very rare, because most shoplifting calls are very benign or passive situations, and people don’t typically go to jail.
Charges are pending, but Hedley said he didn’t know specific charges yet on Monday evening.
Hedley said the officer is placed on paid administrative leave for a few days, but the preliminary investigaton revealed his use of force was justified.
The officer is a seven-year veteran of Lilburn Police with an excellent service record, Hedley said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office were notified to investigate the case, Hedley said.