Two off-duty Winnipeg police officers were assaulted with rocks and bear spray on Thursday while they attempted to stop three men from shoplifting at Unicity Mall.
At about noon, one of the officers was shopping at the mall when he saw a store employee chasing a man who was carrying several pieces of merchandise and trying to run out of the store, police said in a news release on Friday.
The off-duty officer followed outside and saw what were two other men carrying merchandise.
He identified himself as a police officer and directed them to return to the store. At that point, one of the men directed another to “spray him,” and one of the men pulled out a can of bear spray, pointing it at the officer.
As the three suspects ran toward a transit bus, a man approached the officer, identified himself as another off-duty officer and offered his help.
The three alleged shoplifters boarded the transit bus, while the off-duty officers followed.
After the men identified themselves as police, all three suspects got off the bus and confronted the police, charging at them, while one man discharged bear spray.
The officers were able to grab the man with the bear spray, who was told he was under arrest, however, he fired bear spray directly into the face of one of the officers.
All three fell to the ground as the suspect continued to resist arrest and spray the chemical irritant.
Meanwhile, one of the other men started throwing rocks at the officers.
Uniformed police arrived to assist, and were able to arrest the man with the bear spray and the one who was throwing rocks.
More officers arrived and were able to track down the last man close by.
The two off-duty officers went through a decontamination process, but were not otherwise injured.
The three alleged shoplifters were arrested and charged with a number of offences, including robbery, theft under $5,000, assaulting a peace officer, resisting a peace officer and assault with a weapon.
They are all in custody.
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