Elderly woman with Alzheimer’s arrested for stealing cookies

From KPTV.com, September 13, 2011

78-year-old Portland woman with Alzheimer’s dementia was cuffed and booked into the Multnomah County Jail after police say she stole a bag of cookies from a local Walmart.

Jean Rubino is a grandmother of 13 and has five great-grandchildren.

“She is a sweet, kind, caring woman; an everyday grandma that will do anything for you,” Rubino’s son-in-law Anthony Stevens said.

Rubino suffers from Alzheimer’s dementia, and recently moved into an assisted living home in southeast Portland.

Monday, Rubino and others from the building took a trip to the Walmart on southeast 82nd Avenue in one of the living center’s buses.

She admits that inside the store, she grabbed a bag of cookies and put them in her purse. Police say Walmart security was watching, and one of the store’s loss-prevention officers arrested her.

“It was stupid. And, then they handcuffed me and everything. They were disgusting,” Rubino said.

This was the third time Rubino was caught stealing here, but her first arrest. Portland Police say Walmart managers elected to press charges. That meant, by law, that Rubino had to be arrested.

“Whether it’s a $40 bottle of wine or a $2 bag of cookies, it’s a Theft 3. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate it happened,” Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

“She’s really upset. She was upset about the way they booked her in,” Stevens said. “They photographed her, frisked her, took her belongings.”

Portland Police say officers are required to make an arrest even if the person has a mental illness or disease.

“I think Walmart handled it completely inappropriately. They could have contacted us, they could have found out about family. They didn’t have to press charges,” Stevens said.

Rubino’s family says they’ll make sure she is supervised at all times on future outings with the assisted living home.

“She understands a little bit that what she did was wrong, but at the same time, it could happen tomorrow because of the illness,” Stevens said.

In court Tuesday, Rubino learned she wasn’t being charged with a crime yet, but could be charged in the future.

Calls and emails to Walmart were not returned.