A serial shoplifter known for pepper-spraying store workers trying to stop him was so persistent in that endeavor that he did it again while out on bond for earlier offenses, authorities said Friday.
Antonius Tykeo Bridges of West Point, Ga., was released on bond in late December from the Muscogee County Jail after he was charged with shoplifting and pepper-spraying a store employee at Columbus’ T.J. Maxx, 5550 Whittlesey Blvd., according to court records.
On April 17, he committed an identical crime at the JC Penny store in Columbus’ Peachtree Mall, police said. He also shoplifted at a T.J. Maxx in Opelika, Ala., and at the T.J. Maxx on Macon Road in Columbus, a prosecutor said.
So on Friday, the 24-year-old was back in court, this time for a bond revocation hearing before Judge Maureen Gottfried, who ordered that he remain in jail.
Here is a chronological breakdown of his accusations:
A loss-prevention officer at the 3201 Macon Road T.J. Maxx observed a man and woman pick out 29 pieces of designer clothing worth about $900, remove the items’ security tags and stuff them into a clothes hamper they got from the store’s house wares section. The two apparently became nervous about drawing suspicion, abandoned the hamper and left the store. That was around 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9.
The loss-prevention officer thought they might visit another T.J. Maxx, so that same day he went to the Whittlesey Boulevard store, where he saw the same two people take the same model of clothes hamper, and after removing tags put in 38 items of clothing worth $1,061. This time they left the store with the loot, bypassing the cashiers, and the male suspect sprayed the security officer with pepper spray when the officer tried to stop them. Police were called there about 8:30 p.m.
The following Dec. 12, two people were seen shoplifting at the 2185 Tiger Town Parkway T.J. Maxx in Opelika. “In this incident, Bridges and the codefendant concealed a substantial amount of clothing in two large JC Penny’s shopping bags and attempted to leave the store without paying for it,” prosecutor Kimberly Schwartz wrote in a motion asking Gottfried to revoke Bridges’ bond. “When a store security officer tried to stop them, Bridges pepper-sprayed the officer, and the two were able to escape.”
Opelika police on Dec. 14 publicized images they got from store security cameras, and tipsters identified Bridges, investigators said. His female accomplice so far has not been named.
Acting on the information from Opelika authorities, Columbus police showed the store security officer here a photo lineup, and he picked out Bridges as the man who pepper-sprayed him.
Police arrested Bridges on Dec. 27. Though he was supposed to be held on warrants from Opelika, he was released Dec. 29 from the Muscogee County Jail “through an administrative error,” Schwartz wrote.
About 3:30 p.m. April 17, Columbus police were called to the JC Penney store at 3507 Manchester Expressway, where the loss-prevention officer told them he saw a woman putting items in a shopping cart before a man came by, stuffed the goods in a bag, and left the store.
When the officer tried to stop him, the suspect said “F—k you” and pepper-sprayed him, testified police Sgt. Randy Long, who later showed the store officer a photo lineup from which the witness picked Bridges’ picture. The loot taken in that theft was worth about $400, Long said.
He said JC Penny’s managers believe Bridges also pepper-sprayed a worker who tried to impede his shoplifting there last December.
On April 25, a grand jury indicted Bridges for attempted shoplifting at the Macon Road T.J. Maxx, shoplifting at the Whittlesey Boulevard T.J. Maxx, and aggravated assault for pepper-spraying the worker at the Whittlesey Boulevard store.
Long said he arrested Bridges again May 5 when Bridges came to court to be arraigned on those charges.
Schwartz in her motion wrote that Bridges likely has done this in other instances police have yet to uncover.
“Bridges is currently under investigation for a number of similar crimes committed at stores throughout the state of Georgia, including at least one additional incident in Columbus … since he has been on bond in the instant case,” she wrote, later adding, “It is clear the defendant is a serial shoplifter who escalates to violence whenever anyone attempts to interrupt or prevent his stealing.”