Austin police: Man pushed front desk clerk into refrigerator, stole from hotel market

An arrest warrant has been issued for a man Austin police say pushed a hotel front desk clerk into a refrigerator and stole merchandise without paying for it.

Benjamin Bruce, 35, has been charged with second-degree felony robbery by assault.

According to court paperwork, officers responded to a Holiday Inn Express in northeast Austin on Dec. 4, 2019, around 7:42 a.m. The victim, an on-duty front desk clerk, told officers she had seen the suspect enter the lobby, and that she knew he had committed previous thefts at the hotel. The suspect walked towards the hotel market and as he approached, the clerk stepped in front of him and told him he needed to leave and couldn't take any items.

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The man swore at her and pushed her backwards into a fridge, then took a Coke and a package of frozen Hot Pockets from the fridge, says court paperwork. After he took the items, he tried to flee without paying, but the clerk struggled with him over the items. He fled through the lobby doors still holding the items.

The clerk told officers she felt pain on her shoulder and sustained bruising to her hand, says court paperwork. Security footage of the incident confirmed the clerk's report.

Austin police later released footage of the incident and of two additional incidents the suspect was involved in. A tip reported the suspect in the video was Bruce. Robbery Unit detectives compared a police database photo of Bruce to the video and confirmed the suspect in the video was Bruce, says court paperwork, and that the facial features and hair of the suspect in the security footage matched Bruce.

Bruce had been previously arrested for possession of a controlled substance on Oct. 28, 2019, and court paperwork says when he was arrested then, Bruce was wearing the same blue sweatshirt with a large, distinct, white logo that he is seen wearing on the hotel security footage.