Police Allege Shoplifter Claimed to Have Coronavirus to Avoid Arrest

Close up of metal handcuffs
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An Oakland man allegedly tried to avoid being arrested on suspicion of shoplifting by saying he was infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, San Leandro police said Thursday.

Serrell Gordon, 40, was apparently seen taking about $780 of energy drinks from Walmart at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. on March 17.

Police were dispatched at 3:20 p.m. that day to the store after someone called to report a robbery. Gordon was wearing a medical mask when he was apparently seen taking the drinks. Police allege that when Walmart loss prevention staff stopped Gordon, he falsely said he had the coronavirus.

Loss prevention staff backed away from Gordon, and Gordon allegedly left the store with the drinks. The staff then notified police. Officers stopped Gordon in a vehicle a short distance from the store and arrested him on suspicion of robbery.

Lt. Ted Henderson said a robbery can occur in a shoplifting situation in California when the suspect is stopped by security and attempts to use force, or apparently fear in this case, to steal the goods and avoid arrest.

Police did not say how they knew Gordon did not have the virus. Police said prosecutors have charged Gordon with robbery and resisting arrest. Gordon is being held in Santa Rita Jail on $60,000 bail.

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