The old saying that police officers are “never off duty” rang true in Brick on Monday, to the chagrin of a suspected shoplifter.
Brick Police Sgt. Paul Catalina, while off duty, was exiting his personal vehicle in the parking lot of the Home Depot on Route 88 in town, when he heard the audible sound coming from an activated anti-theft shoplifting device which drew his attention to the exit of the building, Sgt. Neal Pedersen said in a statement.
While looking directly at the exit of the building, Catalina could hear the audible device getting louder and moving closer to him. He observed a white male, later identified as Brian Eckardt, 41, of Manahawkin, carrying two hard cases, one in each hand, commonly used to store tools.
The cases still had the anti-theft wrap around them, Pedersen said. At the same time, an employee exited the Home Depot store, behind Eckardt, and was instructing him to return to the store. He started to walk faster and then started to run, said Pedersen.
Realizing Eckardt exited the store with the anti-theft shoplifting device intact and sounding, coupled with the Home Depot employee attempting to call Eckardt back to the store and him running away in response, Catalina ran in Eckardt’s direction and paralleled him through the parking lot because he believed he had stolen the merchandise.
Eckardt ran to a 2014 Hyundai Sonata and started to enter it as Catalina caught up to him just as he opened the door. He identified himself as a Brick Township Police officer, which in turn caught the attention of a second off-duty officer, Robbinsville Police Officer Matthew Hill, who ran over to assist.
Catalina told Eckardt he was under arrest and commanded him to exit the vehicle he was using for the alleged escape, police said. But Eckardt started the car and put it in gear, while Catalina simultaneously reached into the vehicle in an attempt to turn the vehicle off.
Eckardt finally put the car into park, and Hill was able to assist Catalina in restraining Eckardt and placing him under arrest.
Shortly after Eckardt was in custody Ptl. Prendeville, Detective Waleski, and Ptl. Wynn arrived on scene and Eckardt was turned over to them.
A Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drill Kit, valued at $399.00 and a DeWalt Compact Brushless Drill/Driver Kit, valued at $199.00, were recovered.
Eckardt was processed and released on summons for shoplifting, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic syringe.