A serial shoplifter accused of trying to swipe bottles of baby formula from a city store Tuesday apparently decided not to go down without a fight.
With a coat packed full of the expensive formula, David Vasquez fought employees and a customer before he was subdued on the floor of Rite-Aid at 59 N. Queen St., police said.
Vasquez, 53, punched a female customer in the face twice and shoved a female employee to the ground during the skirmish, according to police. No one was seriously injured.
When a male store manager intervened, the group was able to wrestle Vasquez to the ground until police arrived.
Vasquez was arrested and charged with felony robbery and felony retail theft. Retail theft, normally a misdemeanor, is upgraded to a felony when a defendant has three prior convictions.
Turns out, Vasquez has been stealing from stores for more than 30 years, according to investigators. Court records indicate Vasquez has been convicted or pleaded guilty to retail theft at least five times since 1976. Police in Lancaster city, Manheim and East Hempfield townships and Lititz Borough have previously charged Vasquez.
Vasquez, who most recently lived at 765 Manor St., also is charged with misdemeanor simple assault and providing a false name to police for the outburst at Rite-Aid.
About noon, according to investigators, store employees noticed a shopper was placing items inside his coat.
One of the employees confronted the man about it, and he removed two bottles
One of the employees confronted the man about it, and he removed two bottles of formula from his coat sleeve.
The employee noticed more formula was stashed in the coat and asked the shopper to come with her to the front of the store. The shopper resisted and pushed the woman to the ground, according to investigators.
When a female customer tried to intervene, the shopper — later identified as Vasquez — allegedly punched her in the face.
The store manager, who police said was much bigger than the 5-foot-8-inch, 170-pound Vasquez, then got involved. With the manager’s help, the unruly shopper was taken to the ground.
Vasquez allegedly gave an alias to police, but officers realized the name was fake when they found a bank receipt with his real name inside the man’s coat with his real name.
In all, Vasquez tried to steal four bottles of formula with a combined value of $58.16.
Investigators say he may have intended to resell the expensive formula. City police Sgt. Todd Umstead said baby formula is a hot item for retail thieves because the product carries a hefty price tag, and because of its size, is easy to stash.
Also, police said, small corner stores will buy the formula, meaning thieves can make a quick profit.
District Judge Janice Jimenez arraigned Vasquez and remanded him to Lancaster County Prison on $75,000 bail.
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