Safford police officers were dispatched to the Walmart parking lot last Saturday at approximately 9:30 p.m. in reference to an accident in the parking lot. The reporting party said that she had witnessed a man in a van back into another vehicle in the parking lot before parking and entering the store. The witness said that the man got out and looked at both vehicles before going into the store.
The witness said that the van had left just before the officer arrived. She showed the officer a photo she had taken of the van, which had a company logo on the side.
The bumper of the car that had been hit had noticeable damage to the rear driver bumper. The car appeared to have been pushed partially out of the parking space. An officer inside the store managed to find the owner of the car that had been hit and was issued a victim’s rights form.
Authorities aired information about the suspect van over the radio to other units and advised that the van was last seen heading north on 20th Avenue. A Thatcher police officer made contact with the owner of the construction company that owned the van. The owner was able to track the van using GPS and told authorities that the van was parked behind the Mount Graham Shopping Center.
Multiple officers responded to the back side of the shopping center and found the van. The driver revved the engine as officers approached the vehicle and was slow to obey commands to come out. Ultimately, the driver came out and was handcuffed. According to the police report, he was wearing women’s nylons and a sweater. His pants and shoes were found on the floorboard of the driver’s seat area. A pair of women’s underwear was also found on the floor of the van with a store tag still attached along with a women’s bra. Packaging for the nylons was also on the floor.
The driver seemed dazed. He admitted that he had been to Walmart and that he had hit a car in the parking lot. An officer asked if he hit the car on purpose or accident. The man said that it was an accident. Authorities suspected the man had been driving impaired. After conducting a field sobriety test, the man was arrested and transported to the Safford Police Station for processing.
An officer reviewed surveillance footage at Walmart which showed the man had shoplifted several items while in the store. The video apparently showed the man picking up an empty bag from the checkout area and placing merchandise in the bag. At the police station, the man was asked about the items he took. He admitted taking the women’s underwear, bra and nylons. Outside video showed the man getting out of the driver’s side of the van after hitting the car in the parking lot.
The man is facing charges of DUI drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, shoplifting and criminal damage.