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Bystander tackles Nanaimo robbery suspect

Police are crediting a Nanaimo bar owner with foiling a robber's getaway.
Police are crediting Jerry Hong

Police are crediting bystanders with foiling a robber's getaway.

The incident unfolded Tuesday at Country Club Centre at about 4:30 p.m.

Jerry Hong, owner of the Queen's and Occidental hotels, was getting lunch at a restaurant in the mall when a worker from a Quizno's sandwich restaurant nearby rushed in.

"She was screaming for help, that they had just got robbed," Hong said. "So I followed her out and she says, 'Him, in the hat.'"

Hong yelled at a man wearing a yellow hard hat to stop, but the man fled.

"I chased him and confronted him in the parking lot and he threw his hat at me," Hong said.

Hong chased the man across 107th Street and tried to tackle him.

"Tackles never seem to work out the way they do in the movies," Hong said. "I kind of flew over him. He grabbed me and was on top of me and punching me in the face."

When the suspect got up the chase continued. The suspect jumped over a fence, knocking it down in the process, and ran into the yard of a nearby home.

"By that time two other guys saw what I was doing and they joined in," Hong said. "The three of us cornered him around the back of the house he said, 'Ok, I give up.' So he gave up and we waited for the police to come."

Const. Gary O'Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said when police arrived they seized a silver-handled knife from the suspect, who did not get any cash from his robbery attempt.

Richard Gordon Butland, 42, appeared in Nanaimo provincial court Wednesday to face one count of robbery, one count of assault and one count of mischief for breaking the fence.

O'Brien said police applaud Hong's actions, but recently police have noticed a tendency for people to put up a fight or at least confront robbers.

"It's an outstanding effort and there's a bad guy in jail, off the streets," O'Brien said. "However, we have to balance these actions with common sense. The majority of people can't do that because they could be seriously injured. The last thing we want is someone going hands-on with somebody for the sake of stopping a robbery. It's not worth it."

Hong, 36, said his intent was to just stall the suspect, but the situation progressed farther than he anticipated.

Hong sustained ripped jeans, a bleeding knee and cuts and bruises to his face.

"It's not too bad," he said. "I think I've had worse bar fights than that."

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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