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Gardens police: Lantana man tried to steal purses, punched officer

An alleged serial shoplifter was arrested Monday after he allegedly punched a security officer at The Gardens Mall while trying to steal expensive women’s handbags, city police said.

Police say James William McGee, 31, of Lantana, tried to take two large MCM purses with a combined value of more than $1,200 from Nordstrom shortly before 1 p.m. Monday.

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McGee faces charges of strong-arm robbery, theft, grand theft and battery. He refused to go to court Tuesday and is scheduled to make his first appearance Wednesday, according to court records.

It was the third time in recent weeks that McGee has been accused of shoplifting. On Nov. 16, employees at a Boynton Beach Kohl’s store alleged that he stole an electric razor. Police caught up to him at a nearby apartment complex and gave him a notice to appear in court.

He is also accused of stealing a cordless power drill from a Home Depot store in Boynton Beach on Nov. 10. The drill was recovered and McGee was given a trespass warning and a notice to appear, according police and court records.

On Monday, a Nordstrom security officer told city investigators McGee picked up two purses and walked directly to one of the exits. When the security officer tried to intervene, McGee punched the officer in the face, police said.

The two men struggled for possession of the purses, with McGee allegedly telling the officer “let go of the bags or I will kick your (expletive).”

McGee finally let go of the purses and ran outside, where a woman in an SUV was waiting to drive him. A city police officer spotted the SUV getting onto southbound Interstate 95 and pulled it over.

The security officer identified McGee as the thief. The report does indicate whether the SUV’s driver will face charges.

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