A Good Samaritan from Coldstream helped disarm an axe-wielding shoplifter who tried to escape a business in Kamloops.
The 35-year-old man, who asked to be referred to by his first name, Adam, was shopping in the Mark's store in the Aberdeen Village Centre on Jan. 4 when he noticed a shoplifter employees were trying to keep in the building until police arrived.
“And you could tell he was getting nervous and he was trying to leave the store,” Adam said, noting one customer in particular — who he later learned was an off-duty police officer — was trying to contain the man.
Adam said the suspect seemed agitated and tried to push past the man, who wouldn’t let him by, but the two eventually ended up near the tills at the front of the store in the 1300-block of Hillside Drive in Dufferin.
Adam said he put down the items he had in his hands and began walking toward the men to ensure no one got hurt as employees appeared worried as yelling and pushing continued.
Adam said the two men began wrestling, prompting him to jump in.
“By the time I got over there and got my hands on him to start wrestling him down, he had pulled a hatchet off of his belt,” Adam said.
He said the suspect was holding the hatchet, arm extended, and isn’t sure if he was trying to strike the off-duty officer or merely hold the weapon away from him so it couldn’t be taken.
“That’s when I grabbed his arm, held it behind him and we wrestled the hatchet out of hand,” Adam said.
“It hit the ground, we kicked it out of the way and then wrestled the man to the ground.”
Adam noted the hatchet blade was still in its cover.
The three ended up struggling out onto the sidewalk, where Adam and the officer were able to subdue the suspect, sitting on him until on-duty police arrived and placed him in handcuffs.
Kamloops RCMP Const. Crystal Evelyn confirmed the incident, telling KTW police received a report of a theft in progress at about 5 p.m. on Jan. 4 involving two suspects — a male and female — with only the male having been caught.
She said officers en route were advised an off-duty police officer had detained the male suspect, who had become combative, and a civilian assisted in gaining control.
During a search of the suspect, officers retrieved suspected stolen property, including a hatchet, Evelyn said.
Adam told KTW he noticed the man was in possession of some hats that still had tags on them.
The suspect was released with a court date and conditions, with charges anticipated pending an approval process, Evelyn said.
Attending officers and the off-duty officer thanked Adam for his help.
“The off-duty cop thanked me afterwards and patted me on the back,” Adam said.
Evelyn said the off-duty officer is extremely grateful Adam jumped in and helped.
She said the quick actions of the off-duty officer in detaining one of the two suspects, and the civilian helping gain control while uniformed officers were on the way, helped make the situation safer for everyone involved.
Adam often frequents Kamloops for work and went back to his hotel after the incident that night, where the reality of the situation washed over him.
“At the time, it didn’t feel like it was anything big, but after the fact and after I gave my statement, I was pretty shook up. I guess it was all the adrenaline in my body,” Adam said. “I was shaking for two or three hours afterwards.”
He told KTW he didn’t realize the suspect was armed until he was already in the process of walking toward the two men and overheard the off-duty officer asking why he had a hatchet inside the store.
“Looking back on it now, it all feels surreal. It’s hard to believe that it happened,” Adam said. “I was at the right place at the right time and it was just instinct.”
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week