Man charged with pepper spraying Publix employee

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

A Texas man is being held in the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $10,000 after police said he used pepper spray on a Publix employee during a shoplifting incident.


Pelham police arrested 49-year-old Richard Joseph Saumby, of Sugarland, Texas, shortly after 7 p.m. on Sept. 30 after Publix employees called to report the pepper-spraying incident. Saumby has been charged with third-degree robbery and unlawful use of pepper spray, both felonies.

Pelham police Capt. Larry Palmer said Saumby allegedly was attempting to shoplift from the Publix supermarket on U.S. 31 in Pelham when the store’s loss-prevention officer confronted the suspect.

During the confrontation, Palmer said Saumby pulled out pepper spray and used it on the loss-prevention officer. Saumby then fled the scene and was apprehended a short time later at the Raceway gas station across U.S. 31 from the supermarket.

According to police reports, officers recovered from the suspect five boxes of Prevacaid 24-hour caplets valued at $150, four boxes of Prilosec capsules valued at $100, four boxes of Zegrid capsules valued at $92, two bottles of Rogaine for Men valued at $78 and a Cuban grab-and-go sandwich valued at $3. All items were returned to the supermarket, according to the report.

Palmer said the two felony charges came after Saumby allegedly used pepper spray “to further his crime.” Palmer said the department views pepper spray the same as many other weapons.

“It would have been shoplifting, which is just a theft charge. But because he used pepper spray on the loss-prevention officer, it went from theft to robbery,” Palmer said. “It was shoplifting that the defendant took a step further when he decided to use the spray.”