Three people were arrested Saturday evening after Kroger shoppers noticed their attempt at beautification didn’t seem to come with a receipt.
According to reports, a deputy from the Newton County Sheriff’s Office was working security at the Kroger grocery store on Salem Road when he was notified that a person in the parking lot had called the store and notified an employee that a man in the parking lot was loading his car with the flowers displayed outside the store but didn’t seem to be heading inside the building to pay for them.
The deputy headed in the direction of the flowers and was reportedly notified by a driver flashing her vehicle lights of where the man who had allegedly been seen loading his car was and the deputy was directed to a burgundy 1990 Cadillac Brougham.
When the deputy reached the vehicle, he reportedly saw a man, later identified as 45-year-old Danny Blanton, leaned over in the front passenger seat. When asked to sit up, he allegedly told the deputy no at first, but after being told a second time he reportedly sat up. The deputy asked Danny to tell him about the plants he had loaded into his trunk, and Danny allegedly admitted to putting the plants in his truck and reportedly said that his brother was going to pay for them. When asked where his brother was, he allegedly pointed toward Salem Road and told the deputy that his brother had gone to use the phone.
The deputy asked Danny to step out of the vehicle and open the trunk, and while Danny readily got out of the car, he reportedly told the deputy that he didn’t have a key and, therefore, could not open the vehicle’s trunk. While speaking with Danny, the deputy called for assistance from other law enforcement officers in the area, and as they arrived, so did two other people, Danny’s brother, 47-year-old Charles Blanton and 64-year-old Nina Charping.
As Charles and Charping approached, they allegedly began telling the deputies that they were going to pay for the plants before deputies could even tell the two why they were there. Both were attempting to explain the situation, according to reports, and told deputies that they went in to "return some stockings" and then they were going to go back inside and pay for the plants.
One of the deputies asked the duo how they were planning on paying for the plants when they didn’t know how much they were and they reportedly said they were coming back to the car to get the plants and take them inside the store "because the black lady at the counter told them to bring them in." Then Charles explained, allegedly saying they were coming to the car to get the price tags to take back inside with them.
Deputies asked the assistant manager of the store to find out from his clerks if any of them had told Charles and Charping to get price tags from the plants and bring them inside in order to pay for them and he reportedly did as asked, questioning every employee who was working at that time and all allegedly said they did not have that conversation with the two.
A deputy requested that the trunk on the Cadillac be opened and Charles reportedly pulled a set of keys from his pocket and opened the trunk. He was asked if he had been driving, and he allegedly said that his brother was driving. He also said, according to reports, that his other brother was inside the store at that time trying to pay for the plants, but when asked for his brother’s name he reportedly changed his story, saying that the car was out of gas so his brother had walked to get some gas.
When the trunk of the car was opened, deputies counted eight potted plants inside, each valued at $9.99. The three were then asked how much money they had among them and Charping was the only one with any money on her, according to reports, and she had only $15.
The assistant manager reportedly told the deputies he wanted to press charges against the three and deputies went about arresting the trio. Danny and Charping were arrested without incident, but Charles reportedly pushed away from the deputy attempting to cuff him and took off running across the parking lot and Salem Road. After a short chase, Charles was caught by deputies and placed under arrest as well.
The tags on the Cadillac were run, and they came back to a 1995 Ford Explorer registered to a man in Columbus, Ga., and the vehicle identification number on the car came back to a woman with the last name "Charping" in South Carolina and did have a valid tag assigned to it. Deputies believe that the driver, Charles, had changed the tag to conceal the identity of the owner.
Charles, Danny and Charping were arrested and transported to the Newton County Detention Center. All three were charged with theft by shoplifting. Charles was additionally charged with obstruction of a law enforcement officer.