Worker knocked unconscious in Winnipeg liquor store robbery, one suspect charged

WINNIPEG — Police have charged a 15-year-old boy in a violent liquor store robbery that sent one worker to hospital in critical condition.

The theft at a Winnipeg outlet Wednesday was the latest in a rising number of robberies that have prompted Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to set up more-secure entrances and persuaded the Salvation Army to pull its seasonal fund-raising kettles from outside liquor stores in the city.

“Our decision to remove these kettles saddens us, but the safety of our staff and volunteers is paramount,” the charity said in a press release.

“It’s not clear why anyone would resort to this level of violence for no particular reason,” Const. Rob Carver, spokesman for the Winnipeg Police Service, said Thursday.

A 15-year-old suspect, along with two others, entered the store armed with knives, Carver said. While the two accomplices stole liquor, the teen became enraged with staff and struck two women who work in the store in the face, he said.

One of the women was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital in critical condition. She was later upgraded to stable.

The suspects left the store and attacked people in an adjacent mall, Carver said. The 15-year-old tried to car-jack a woman before being restrained by people who intervened until police arrived.

The youth remains in custody on charges that include aggravated assault and possession of a weapon. The other two suspects are still being sought.

Police confirmed the attack was captured on video that has been circulated on social media.

It is the latest in a string of brazen thefts in the government-run stores. Police have said they receive reports of 10 to 20 thefts each day at liquor stores in Winnipeg alone.

Manny Atwal, CEO of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, announced plans Wednesday to install a new secure entrance at the store that was robbed, and eventually the same security upgrade at other stores. The entrances require customers to show photo identification before they are allowed in.

The union that represents liquor store workers said it welcomes the change, but more steps are needed.

“I started getting text messages and emails late last evening and I started getting emails again at four o’clock this morning from members scared to go to work,” Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, said.

“They feel that their workplaces aren’t the safest they can be.”

Gawronsky said some liquor outlets are inside grocery stores, so a secure separate entrance may be challenging.

Premier Brian Pallister said a message must be sent that thieves will face the full force of the law. He criticized people who might excuse the robbers as victims of poverty.

“There’s a need to stop describing people who hurt other people as victims,” Pallister said.

“Stop making the false assertion that people who have come from tough backgrounds — like many, many Manitobans who would never, ever hurt anyone else have — somehow that some of those people have an excuse to beat up somebody else. It’s just a phoney excuse.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2019.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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