Yellowknife woman says groceries stolen from back of her wheelchair

·4 min read
Zena Heath was leaving the downtown Independent grocery store when she noticed two men were stealing out of the back of her basket.  (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)
Zena Heath was leaving the downtown Independent grocery store when she noticed two men were stealing out of the back of her basket. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)

A Yellowknife woman is speaking out after being robbed while she was leaving a downtown grocery store in mid-July.

Zena Heath uses a power wheelchair and keeps her groceries in a basket in the back. While leaving Glen's Your Independent Grocer on July 22, she realized two men walking behind her were stealing from that basket. The incident left her shaken and she hasn't left her home since.

"It's frustrating because, you know, obviously something like this has never happened to me before. But to realize, I don't know, naively, like how vulnerable I am, how someone could just come up behind me, open up the basket, take whatever they like, and just leave."

Heath said she's speaking about what happened to her to hopefully prevent it from happening to anyone else.

Trying to enjoy the nice weather

She said she normally shops at the Co-op, but decided to go to the downtown Independent which is closer to her apartment. It served as a chance for her to go outside and enjoy the nice weather.

As she finished paying her bill, she noticed two men were hanging around the cash registers asking customers and cashiers to exchange bills for change.

While she was leaving the store, she noticed both men were walking extremely close behind her and laughing.

"I actually sped up my wheelchair and I drove rather fast and I turned the corner sharply where those pillars are," she said.

It was this movement, she said, that caused one of the men to drop a two-litre bottle of A&W root beer that he was taking from a basket on the back of her wheelchair. The other man with him, she added, ran away with a second bottle of root beer that he had also taken from her basket.

"It was at that point that I realized what was going on," Heath said.

I hate when things like that happen because they change things. And then when I was going home, I just kept looking behind my back - Zena Heath

Heath said the man who dropped the bottle initially fumbled to pick it back up and tried walking away but she called him out.

"And I said, you know, 'hey, like, stop, you know, that's mine.' And he stopped and turned and he was like, 'oh, you know, you dropped it, you dropped it, you dropped it. I was just going to give it back to you,'" she said.

After returning the bottle to Heath, he ran off.

She then went back to the store to inform the manager of what had happened.

"Then when I got into the store, that's when I got really, really emotional," she said.

The store's owner didn't want to be interviewed by CBC News, but did confirm the incident happened.

"I hate when things like that happen because they change things," said Heath. "And then when I was going home, I just kept looking behind my back."

Emotional harm

Heath said she didn't bother reporting the incident to the RCMP because the object stolen wasn't of high value and she wasn't harmed physically, but she was emotionally.

"I'm sure that they thought it was really funny and whatnot. But the person that they're doing it to is human and that will impact them in ways that can be very, you know, detrimental," Heath said.

"I really hope that they think about that and know that their actions have consequences. And I just hope that they don't do it to anyone else."

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

Heath said she's taking time to recover and part of that is staying home.

"Before I would kind of be outside of my apartment in the sun enjoying summer and whatnot, but I couldn't do it," she said.

"I mean, I want to get out and I want to explore and enjoy, but I need time to heal. And so, no, I have not been out of the house since that point."

Silver lining

Heath said there was one silver lining to what was an overall terrible experience.

When she got home, she posted about the event on a community Facebook page which led to people reaching out and offering her support.

"I had people offering to replace the item. I had people saying that they would come with me to the grocery store to make me feel safe and everything," Heath said.

"The community was just so wonderful."

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