Union Democrat staff

A 77-year-old man accused of absconding with a motorized shopping cart from an area grocery store remained jailed Thursday on theft charges.

John Charles Mathews, of Columbia, was arrested at 1 a.m. Wednesday on the 800 block of Mono Way.

He indicated to the officer he was trying to drive the Safeway cart to his home on the 11400 block of Forest Park Drive, about six miles away, according to Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson.

The Tuolumne County District Attorney's Office has not filed charges against the man and instead returned the report to police for investigation.

The arresting officer saw Mathews driving the cartwest on Mono Way and contacted him about 0.1 mile from the grocery store, police said

The incident report did not state whether the man was driving on the roadway or sidewalk, Police Chief Mark Stinson said.

Stinson was not sure how Mathews got to the Sanguinetti Road business.

Mathews told the officer that Safeway had given him the cart - valued at $1,000 - because he has trouble walking, according to police.

The officer contacted a Safeway representative who said the store had not given Mathews the cart and did not realize it had been taken, police said.

Mathews was booked into Tuolumne County Jail with bail set at $10,000.

The cart was returned to the store, police said.

Safeway declined to comment on the incident due to the ongoing investigation.

Stinson said Sonora police have previously contacted Mathews for alcohol-related incidents.

On Nov. 30, Mathews was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a license suspended for a prior DUI.

Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the alleged theft.