Nanaimo RCMP are investigating a violent attempted robbery at Country Club Centre Monday where a clerk and several others were attacked with bear spray.
A lone male jumped the counter of the B.C. Lotto booth at about 10 a.m., sprayed the female clerk then attempted to open the safe.
He was unsuccessful and jumped back over the counter, running in the direction of Save-On-Foods.
The clerk’s screams caught the attention of several mall customers who chased the suspect.
A 64-year-old man momentarily grabbed the suspect, but was sprayed and lost his grip. At least two other people were sprayed attempting to catch him.
The male eventually exited the mall near Save-On-Foods and was seen getting into a newer-model Toyota Sienna van.
The van was parked behind Lucky’s Liquor Store adjacent to 107th St. and left in a north-bound direction.
The suspect is described as a white male, late teens or early 20s, six-feet, 170 pounds, with short, dark hair, dark-rimmed glasses and rotten teeth.
He was wearing a blue and grey plaid jacket, dark pants and a black backpack.
Victims of the bear spray were treated by paramedics at the mall.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said while the mall customers did what they thought was best, police do not suggest people getting involved.
“We never advocate anyone going hands on because the propensity for being injured is extremely high,” he said. “In this day in age you don’t know if someone is infectious or they’re carrying weapons. These people are desperate and will take desperate measures to get away.”
Dave Mills, Country Club manager, described the incident as random. He’s never seen anything like it in his five years at the mall.
Mills also echoed O’Brien’s comments regarding customers chasing the suspect.
“I certainly appreciate that we have great customers and they want to get involved,” he said. “Of course as the police say, there’s a danger to get involved and I don’t recommend it. Especially because he didn’t get away with anything. It seemed like a very desperate act.”
The mall was closed for a short time as Nanaimo Fire Rescue set up fans to remove any spray from the building.
Police would like to speak to an elderly man who waiting for a bus on 107th St., saw the van and gave its description and direction to mall employees.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.