YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Mahwah Home Depot employee and accused shoplifter knocked over plants and flowers during a tussle this morning that ended when an off-duty Rockland County police officer grabbed the suspect.
The employee recognized 50-year-old ex-con Rene Ruggio of Long Island from a previous incident and stopped him around 10:45 a.m., Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said.
Ruggio was trying to sneak out of the Route 17 store with more than $2,000 worth of power tools, electrical and plumbing supplies and a microwave oven hidden beneath a large bag of grass seed, Batelli said.
Ruggio pushed the employee and the resulting fracas knocked down several racks, the chief said.
An off-duty Spring Valley police officer grabbed Ruggio as other customers called police.
Batelli said police believe Ruggio might have had an accomplice.
Detectives were reviewing store surveillance video, he said.
Ruggio was being held on $75,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail, charged with strong-armed robbery, assault and shoplifting.
Records show he has a history of previous arrests for robbery, weapons violations, criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, burglary, possession of stolen property, assault, theft and drug offenses.
Mahwah police arrested him and another man for shoplifting $1,400 worth of power tools from the same store in August. Ruggion later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, records show.
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