Several people were pepper sprayed after three men robbed a Parkland Mall store shortly before 10 a.m. this morning.
One of those victims was Larry Novak, who took a blast of pepper spray and a kick to the head after tackling one of the robbers as he fled from the Best Buy store.
“They messed with the wrong guy. I’m an old-school biker,” said Novak, 68.
“I was in Bentley buying a couple of fanny packs when I heard the alarm go off,” he said. “I looked over at Best Buy and there were three skinny black guys all dressed in black.
After tearing three cellphones from a display the culprits took off running with two heading Novak’s way.
“I went out in the middle of the hallway. I had one of the guys stopped.
“I said, ‘Bring it buddy. Bring it.’”
The man tried to get past him but Novak, who stands over 1.91 m (six-foot-three) and 100 kg (220 pounds), got hold of him.
“I grabbed him and threw him down on the floor. Then the other guy came back and he kicked me in the head.”
During the scuffle Novak was pepper sprayed. A woman who worked at Bentley, who came out to help him, also got blasted.
Police and EMS were on scene quickly. Novak said a Best Buy employee gave him a bottle of water to rinse out his eyes, which were still red from the spray an hour later.
Asked why he got involved, Novak said, “I don’t know. It happened and I got there.
“I was just trying to be a good citizen.”
Despite stinging eyes — and he suspects some bruised ribs from throwing the suspect down — Novak has no regrets.
“The only thing I regret is the whole court system in Canada has to be changed.”
Convicted criminals get off too easy and those who come to Canada from another country and commit crimes should be sent back, he said.
A passerby also stopped to share her anger at the lenient sentences convicted criminals get and how soon they are back on the street.
A man who works in a nearby kiosk said the robbery and violent aftermath show why it’s best for employees to stay safe.
“It’s a prime example of why companies have a policy not to be a hero and have insurance on their products,” he said.
“Be lucky it was only bear spray or mace. It could have been 10 times worse — then what?”
Red Deer RCMP described the suspects as three black men wearing black hoodies, believed to be in their mid-twenties. One wore a blue bandana.
They fled the mall through the east exit after shoving a security guard who attempted to stop them.
Police said a number of people were affected by the pepper spray which induces coughing and discomfort but no lasting injuries. No other injuries were reported during the robbery.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to contact Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575. To remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, or report it online at www.tipsubmit.com. If information leads to an arrest there could be a cash reward of up to $2,000.