Wal-Mart Shoplifter Gets A Great Dumpster Hiding Place—Until Machinery Compacts Him

Some stores have all the fun. Remember the Ohio Wal-Mart where a shoplifter faked a pregnancy (as well as barcodes and a not-quite-shoplift shoplift) to try and get out of going to jail? Although that town only has one Wal-Mart, it seems to get more than its share of truly strange shoplifting stories.

It seems that a short time before the "my water broke" incident, that same store had a shoplifter who was almost caught, so he ran off and hid in a trash dumpster. It would have been a good move, had the collection truck not arrived and dumped the container's contents—including our intrepid shoplifter—into its compressing machinery. Yep, he was repeatedly squashed until he phoned a friend and then used his cell phone to call police and confess, begging that they somehow find and release him. (They did.)

The compressed crook, according to police, had a 26-page rap sheet, including a previous arrest at this same Alliance, Ohio, Wal-Mart. (This is apparently a very happening store.)

The story began at 6 A.M. on September 22 when police, who had been called about a theft in progress, spotted a car with its motor running near a fire exit at the back of the store—and a man pushing a shopping cart loaded with what turned out to be $1,000 worth of merchandise through the door. The shoplifting suspect spotted the police, too, and vanished into the darkness behind the store. Police spent 40 minutes searching the area without success.

That's when they got a call from a man claiming to be a friend of the suspect. According to the friend, the suspect—one James Michael Brienzo, 37, of Barberton, Ohio—had climbed into a dumpster to dodge police. While he was hiding, a trash truck arrived, dumped the contents of the dumpster into its compactor and drove away. Brienzo then used his cell phone to call the friend.

Meanwhile, a frantic Brienzo also called 911, begging emergency dispatchers to find the truck that, he said, kept compacting him under tons of scrap cardboard. During the 16-minute call, Brienzo reportedly screamed at the top of his lungs each time the truck picked up another load and compacted its contents.

Police used the GPS system on Brienzo's phone to track him and finally located the truck near a recycling plant, where it was emptied. A critically injured Brienzo was extracted from the mountain of cardboard and taken by medical helicopter to a Cleveland hospital.