‘I thought I was going to die:’ Manitoba liquor store worker recalls attack

WINNIPEG — One week after a violent liquor store robbery left her unconscious, Randi Chase can clearly recall feeling as if she could not move as her attacker came at her.

“I just froze and I just was so crippled by fear. I thought I was going to die,” Chase said Wednesday.

“I thought I was never going to see my family again,” she added, her voice breaking.

Chase, 26, was one of three workers at a government-owned liquor store in the Tyndall Park area of Winnipeg that was robbed by three people.

Video of the attack, which has circulated on social media, shows one robber approaching Chase near a cash register. At one point, the attacker punches her in the head, knocking her unconscious.

A teenager was arrested at the scene that night, while two others got away.

The robbery is among a rising number of liquor store thefts. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries CEO Manny Atwal has said the stores have been “under siege” for more than a year.

Robberies have become more brazen as word got out that store workers and even security guards have been told not to intervene physically. In some cases, groups have walked into stores, filled backpacks and bags and simply walked away.

The store where Chase works reopened Wednesday with a more-secure entrance. Customers have to show photo identification before being allowed in. The same change is being planned for all government-owned liquor stores in Winnipeg.

Chase, who was taken to hospital after the attack, suffered a concussion and severe bruising. The emotional toll is ongoing, she said. She is fearful, unable to sleep much and has lost her appetite.

“In other places in the city — in stores, in the mall, anywhere — I’m constantly aware of my surroundings and … anticipating that there’s going to be a robbery or something going wrong, or that I’m going to be attacked.”

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said it would not comment on a specific employee. It issued a memo to employees Tuesday on robberies.

“Be assured that our human resources department has made sure counselling services are available for everyone involved at Tyndall through our Employee and Family Assistance Program. It’s important to remember that these supports are accessible to everyone,” the memo read.

“While no employee should ever intervene in a theft or unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way by provoking or engaging with a thief, employees do have the right to protect themselves should the situation warrant it.”

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union has called for a meeting of politicians, police, workers and others to find ways to cut down on robberies and violence.

Union president Michelle Gawronsky said she is hopeful that, in the meantime, there will be more security measures set up in stores.

Chase, who is also a university student, said she is not sure if she will return to work.

“I don’t know, emotionally, whether I’d be able to go back,” she said.

“Time will tell.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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