Alleged thief might have been choked 

An alleged shoplifter injured and reportedly choked into unconsciousness by two Safeway security guards in Redwood City was in court Tuesday for felony charges that could land him in jail for life.

George Darron Pirtle, 38, faces a charge of burglary and a charge of petty theft with a prior. With prior convictions for residential burglary and robbery, Pirtle’s alleged theft of $42.90 worth of liquor constitutes a three-strikes case.

At the preliminary hearing, police Officer Evan Paraskevopoulos described arriving at Safeway on April 2 to investigate a shoplifting call. He testified that two security guards told him they had confronted Pirtle outside Safeway after watching him take a bottle of gin and a bottle of rum.

Paraskevopoulos said the security guards told him upon his arrival that Pirtle had placed the bottles on the ground before they tried to handcuff him. The guards explained that Pirtle resisted and they then wrestled him to the ground, Paraskevopoulos’ testified. During the struggle, Pirtle appeared to have lost consciousness and urinated on himself, but was conscious by the time Paraskevopoulos arrived, he said.

Paraskevopoulos said he questioned the security guards about the struggle, and one of them said he didn’t think he choked Pirtle, but that if he did, it was because his arm was unintentionally across his neck.

"I was curious why he did that, if it had been a move he had been taught," Paraskevopoulos testified "It’s something I’ve been taught and I take very seriously. He said it wasn’t anything he had learned."

Pirtle was treated at the hospital for a broken finger and pain in his neck before being booked into jail.

Neither security guard is facing charges in the incident.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said guards are allowed to use force if someone is resisting during a citizen’s arrest.

Wagstaffe said prosecutors aren’t likely to seek the maximum sentence of life in prison since Pirtle’s crimes were nonviolent.

tbarak@examiner.com  

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