Police took a Tennessee man into custody after he allegedly ate multiple bags of chips stolen by a different person from a local convenience store.
The officers believe the man knew the snacks were not paid for when he ate them, thus connecting him to the crime. His mother says the police should not have locked him up for eating stolen goods — particularly since he was not the one who stole them in the first place.
On Thursday, Feb. 9, Joseph Braswell, 36, was charged with theft of merchandise after he was caught with crumbs from a bag of chips stolen from the Parkway Village Circle K store in Memphis, WREG reports. The total price for the two bags of chips he ate was $4.98.
An unidentified man, according to the Memphis Police Department, stole the chips after arguing with a clerk in the convenience store. She would not sell him a beer. In a rage, he grabbed the entire display of snacks and left the store. Authorities say the display had hundreds of bags of chips in it when it was stolen.
On his way to his car, which the suspect tossed the display in before riding off, a few of the bags fell on the ground. Braswell walked over to the parking lot and picked up two bags and started to eat them.
Police report that after being called to investigate the robbery, they encountered Braswell across the street from the scene of the crime with crumbs in his beard. After reviewing surveillance footage, police determined the man knew the bags of chips were stolen and ate them anyway.
This provided enough cause for the police to arrest Braswell, after which he was remanded in jail for 12 days.
According to the store manager Melanie Jackson, Braswell was locked up to send a message about burglarizing her store.
“People come in here daily on a daily basis stealing, they think that is OK. My inventory is 17,000 short on people coming in here stealing,” Jackson said.
The Circle K employee also said crimes like these are pushing businesses out of the area, explaining, “Kroger left because they were stealing, the mall left because they were stealing, the Walmart left because they were stealing. So, if everybody is gone, what are you going to do when Circle K decides we’re fed up?”
However, his mother, who insists her son is not a criminal but needs support for other issues, questions why while he is locked up he was not being “assessed” for mental health issues.
“I called the crisis center, I called the police department,” she said. “I try to get him assessed, and every time he goes downtown for something like this they never assess him.”
According to the New York Post, her son has been arrested many times. His criminal records, which the outlet describes as lengthy, include driving without a valid license, multiple domestic assault charges, and probation violations.
Research from Prisonpolicy.org states “U.S. prisons and jails incarcerate a disproportionate amount of people who have a current or past mental health problem.”
The report, seeming to support what Braswell’s mother suggested, continued, “Half of people incarcerated in prisons and two-thirds of people in jails had either current ‘serious psychological distress’ or a history of mental health problems. Yet only about a third of those reporting serious psychological distress were currently receiving treatment, and only a slightly greater share of people with a history of mental health problems was currently being treated.”
“So, while correctional facilities are warehousing people with mental health problems, they lack the capacity to adequately meet the needs of those in their care,” the 2017 review assessed.
Braswell was released on his own recognizance on Tuesday, Feb. 21, court records show. The actual thief whole stole the snacks has not been caught and is still on the run two weeks later.