WINNIPEG — Sandra Houston was looking for Christmas gifts for her grandchildren when she heard yelling coming from the checkout aisle at a Winnipeg Toys “R” Us store.
She spotted a security guard tussling with a suspected shoplifter near the exit door. The pair — both women — were punching, pulling hair and slapping each other, she said.
After a few minutes, she said the guard pulled a knife from her back pocket.
“You could see the knife plain as day,” Houston recalled Friday.
She said many shoppers, some with children in tow, put down the toys they were carrying and walked away. Houston grabbed her husband’s cellphone and started filming.
“You can’t use that knife!” she screamed.
An employee at the store soon intervened, she said.
“He grabbed that (knife) from her and … he put it in a bin right beside the door.”
Houston said the shoplifter got away but the woman had already dropped most of the items she had with her. Police officers later arrived and are investigating.
Houston said it was a scary experience.
“I’m glad my grandchildren weren’t with me.”
Toys “R” Us has apologized and the guard has been fired.
Company spokesman Clint Gaudry said in an emailed statement that guards, provided by a separate security firm, are stationed in some of its store locations across Canada to provide a visual presence to “deter delinquent behaviour.”
“Unfortunately, in this instance, the security guard did not follow proper protocols and attempted to intervene during an attempted theft,” he said. “We apologize to our customers who witnessed the altercation.”
ESM Security Solutions, the company that employed the guard, said she was immediately suspended and fired after an internal review.
“ESM personnel are not permitted to carry any form of weapon or anything that can be perceived as a weapon,” spokesman Bikram Daulay said in a statement.
“We are reviewing internal practices and taking immediate measures to reinforce our protocols and ensure a similar incident does not occur.”