Tammy Bernier knew a man who entered Impeccable Jewellery in Duncan on July 16 was up to no good when he wouldn’t make eye contact with her.
Bernier, who has worked at the Craig Street business for more than four years, said the man, had been in the store a couple of times before and she recognized him as one of the many street people who hang out in Duncan’s downtown core.
She said his eyes were darting all over the place when he entered the store at approximately 2 p.m. and, even though she was busy with customers, she kept a close eye on him.
“I saw him take a watch from one of our display cases and ran out the door,” she said.
“I was pissed off so I chased him yelling ‘stop’ and ‘thief’ and then William (Slang), who works at Station Street Cafe, tackled him to the ground on Station Street. William put him a wrestling hold and the guy was saying he couldn’t breathe.”
Bernier said she took the watch back from the man and Slang released his grip.
She said the man then picked up a knife that he dropped in the scuffle and she told Slang to just let him go.
“Nothing would be done to him anyway if we turned him over to the authorities,” Bernier said.
“I’m not surprised this happened. These people are all over the place downtown. The real hero of this story is William and I thank him for his help.”
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Meanwhile, Brad Leith, owner of Impeccable Jewellery, was also at the store when the watch was stolen and tried to join the chase with Bernier but tripped on the way out of the store.
He finally caught up to her just as the man was released after Bernier retrieved the watch.
Leith said the thief began running again when he saw him come around the corner and he continued the chase the man across Canada Avenue and around the Train Station.
“He pulled the knife on me when I was about 60 feet behind him and I backed off, but I continued following him around the back of the Duncan Garage,” Leith said.
“I waited there for the police to arrive with two workers from the Cowichan Valley Regional District who had picked me up. The police arrived and tracked down the guy and now he’s in custody.”
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP arrested 47-year-old Jarrod Lane from Duncan.
Leith said his shop has been broken into at night a couple of times, but this was the first time he was robbed in broad daylight while the store was open.
He said he has placed bars on his windows and installed other deterrents which helped deal with the break-ins at night, but he’s concerned about the fact that the thieves are getting so bold as to try to steal from him while he and his staff are in the store.
“This is a huge issue, not just in Duncan but right across Canada,” he said.
“I’m willing to call an ace an ace and not afraid to say this issue is being caused by drug-induced criminals who have no respect for anyone. The problem is only getting worse and it’s not the fault of the police who are trying their best to do their jobs, but the courts who keep letting these criminals loose.”
Leith said he will do what he can to keep his store secure during open hours, but he doesn’t like some of the options.
“I could install a buzzer door at the entrance (in which customers would have to buzzed in) but I don’t think that’s what downtown Duncan is all about,” he said.
“If we did that, we might as well pack up and move to a big city.”
A press release from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment confirmed the incident and said a search for the thief by RCMP officers and a police services dog initially provided no results.
“However, a male matching the description of the suspect was located soon after nearby and Lane was taken into custody,” the release said.
“He is being charged with robbery, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, and theft under $5,000.”
The release also stated that another robbery in which a weapon was brandished took place in downtown Duncan earlier that day in an unrelated incident.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., police responded to a call about a theft from a vehicle that escalated into a robbery in progress in the 300 block of Trunk Road.
Officers were able to locate a man, 56-year-old Peter Frances from Duncan, nearby matching the description of the suspect.
Frances was taken into custody, and the weapon that was believed to be used during the incident was found in his possession and seized.
He is being charged with theft under $5,000, assault with a weapon, and two counts of failure to comply with a probation order.
Inspector Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, said no bystanders were injured in either incident.
“Our officers acted quickly, safely, and effectively as a team in order to bring these two offenders into custody,” he said. “Thanks to these officers, the offenders were taken off of the streets within minutes of the offences occurring.”
Lane and Frances will be held in custody until their first court appearances.
Police are still actively investigating both robberies.
Anyone who may have surveillance footage, or who may have witnessed these incidents is asked to call 250-748-5522.