Being old and having dementia won’t help you if a security guard at Walmart thinks you stole a $2.14 package of cookies.
78-year-old Jean Rubino whose family says she suffers from dementia ended up in jail this week because of this.
She was handcuffed and hauled off to Multnomah County jail after Walmart security stopped her with the cookies in her purse, said Sgt. Pete Simpson of Portland police.
“It is clearly a very unfortunate situation,” he said. “Of course we don’t want to see grandma going to jail.”
Rubino was picked up by a Walmart shuttle from an assisted care facility in Southeast Portland where she lives, and taken to the store on Southeast 82nd Avenue. While there, she picked up a bag of chips and put it next to her purse, Simpson said. She then selected cookies and stuffed them inside, he said.
At the checkstand, she only paid for the chips, Simpson said.
That’s the third time Rubino was caught shoplifting at Walmart, according to Dianna Gee, spokeswoman for the company. She said the two other times were resolved with Rubino handing back the merchandise.
This time she got angry.
“The woman became very aggressive and verbally abusive,” Gee said. “That’s when we contacted police.”
A family member later told police Rubino is suffering from dementia, Simpson said, but that wasn’t apparent to the officer who cuffed her and took her to jail.
“The officer didn’t notice any physical or mental issues,” he said.
Portland police, in theory, could have refused to book her but Simpson said police don’t make exceptions when called by a business on a theft.
That includes slapping on handcuffs.
A frail 78-year-old, she posed no apparent physical threat. But Simpson said everyone is cuffed before being booked, regardless of the situation.
“It’s our procedure,” he said. “You will never find anyone not handcuffed (going to jail) unless they’re in an ambulance.”
Rubino did not go quietly. She refused at first to put her hands behind her back and told the officer, “I hope you die,” Simpson said.
Rubino faces a misdemeanor theft charge. Simpson said it is up to the district attorney’s office to prosecute or work out a deal.
Lance Leland, executive director of Laurelhurst House, declined to comment on the situation or her mental condition.
“She wasn’t with our staff,” Leland said. “She wasn’t on our bus. She was at the store but not with us.”
Rubino has lived at the facility for only a week. He said Walmart’s shuttle picks up residents at care and retirement facilities for weekly shopping trips.
Gee said the company has no plans to ban her from the store or press charges.