With 126 pennies jingling in his pocket, Kenneth Boose Jr. strolled over to the Circle K to buy a big drink. He was standing at the counter when he spotted the black-and-gray police cruiser pull into the parking lot.
"My heart started racing," said Boose, 20, on Thursday morning. "I thought, 'I'm going to jail tonight.' "
Boose was right. Both he and his friend, John Richard Baker, were arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, deputies said, after they say they stole change from the fountain at Surrey Center shopping plaza on Highland Avenue.
Since the story was first reported on augustachronicle.com, some online commenters have expressed the opinion that deputies should have let the change thieves go with a stern warning. Others have lauded the arrests as appropriate, no matter how small the theft.
Boose provided his side of the story Thursday.
He said by telephone that he was at his friend's girlfriend's house when he and Baker decided to go for a walk about 4 a.m. Along the way, they saw the pennies at the bottom of the dry fountain and decided to take them, Boose said.
"I knew it was wrong, but I didn't think it was a big deal," said Boose, who has been arrested for shoplifting once before.
A sheriff's report states that Boose had $1.26 in change; Baker had $1.51 in change. Boose said there were no silver coins in the fountain, just pennies.
A passer-by saw the theft and called police; the investigating deputy was flagged down by a passer-by who pointed him to the suspects, a report says.
Deputy Daryl Oehrlein confronted the pair, who admitted to taking the money and offered to put it back, the report says.
Boose said Oehrlein planned to let them go, but his supervisor, who is not named in a report, told Oehrlein to make the arrest.
"(The supervisor) said 'I should arrest both of you for stealing my daughter's wishes,' " Boose said, quoting the deputy.
Efforts on Thursday to track down the supervisor were unsuccessful. Baker's phone wasn't working Thursday.
The deputy's report says he was unable to find a victim at the time, but presumably the fountain belongs to Surrey Center. Surrey Center owner Alonzo Boardman Jr. did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Boose's father, Kenneth Boose Sr., a former Richmond County sheriff's deputy, said he just about passed out when he heard his son was arrested. His surprise grew as he learned the details.
"I don't have any clue why they would lock him up," he said. "It's silly, just silly."