JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From robbing a grocery store to rebuilding, an Orange Park man said he’s very grateful this Thanksgiving for a second lease on life.
Joshua Shelar, now 33, admitted to walking into a Mandarin Publix with a note: he said he had a bomb and wanted $6,000.
Shelar terrified staff and shoppers in 2018, making off with about $2,000 cash. However, it didn’t take long for a relative to tip off Jacksonville police, who quickly tracked him down.
“I was desperate for everything,” he said. “I was living on the streets of Jacksonville.”
Addicted to prescription opiates, then fentanyl, Shelar was a shell of himself. He had overdosed several times, one time in a coma for days. He’d been arrested for drug-related crimes but returned to the streets and his bad habits.
What was he thinking, robbing a crowded grocery store?
“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t ask myself that same question,” he told News4JAX. “What was I thinking? Where was my mind? That’s not who I am now. That’s not who I was raised to be. It shows what drugs do to you.”
Shelar went to trial, pleaded guilty to robbery and making a bomb threat and went to prison.
Judge Russell Healey sentenced him to 30 months in prison plus three years’ probation. He had to go through drug rehab and pay Publix back $2,000.
But this story isn’t about what he did to get there; it’s about what happened after the crime.
“I’m thankful that I was arrested,” he said. “I’m thankful that God set me down and took me to a place to wake me up.”
This Thanksgiving, he’s served his time. He’s thankful to be free again, with his wife and three children. But he’s also grateful for the judge who sentenced him, the attorneys on his case, even the police officers who arrested him.
“They gave me mercy,” he remarked. “They gave me a second chance at life. I don’t deserve it.”
Believe it or not, he’s thankful for prison, which forced him to get off drugs. It’s there that he said he spent every day learning the Bible and the right way to live. Someone who had his face on the news for the wrong reasons is now hoping this news story helps other people turn their lives around.
“Don’t give up and turn to God,” he added. “I promise you, He will help you through this.”
Life isn’t easy now. He’s rebuilding after almost losing everything. He’s lucky, however. His family has taken him back, and he’s trying to get a job as an electrician to once again provide for them.
There was no bomb at that Publix and Shelar maintains he never wanted to hurt anyone, but he knows he did. Not physically but emotionally.
“If I could say anything to the people affected, I’m truly sorry,” he said. “I’m truly sorry to the community I affected. And the things that I did. For scaring them. I mean no one deserves that. No one.”
The past is the past, but Shelar said the future is bright.