Shoptheft ends in violence with alleged thief and three other men arrested
Alleged thief attacks onlooker, gets beaten up
A man accused of stealing turned violent and hit an onlooker before he himself was attacked.
The ensuing brawl yesterday at Sim Lim Square attracted a crowd and the police later arrested four men.
Paul (not his real name), who works at the store involved, located at the ground storey atrium, said the man, clad in a black T-shirt, behaved suspiciously when he walked in at about 1.25pm.
The electronics gadget store assistant declined to be identified for fear of reprisals.
He claimed that as he moved closer to the man, he noticed the man stuffing a pair of headphones that cost more than $10 into his pocket.
Paul confronted the man, accused him of shoptheft as he walked out of the shop and tried to detain him.
But the store assistant did not expect the man to turn violent.
The man raised his voice and took off his T-shirt to show off his tattoos.
He told everyone he was a martial arts exponent and waved his hands as if he was ready for a fight.
A police spokesman said they received a call at about 1.32pm yesterday. When officers arrived at the scene, they arrested a man for theft in dwelling and another three people for rioting.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Paul's boss, the store owner, said in Mandarin: "This is the first time something like this has happened. We've always just been working hard just to do our business well. Never would I expect something like this to happen."
They showed TNP footage of the incident captured by their security cameras.
Paul said he tried to pin the man on the ground after he turned violent.
"He kept screaming and struggling at first. But after a while, he calmed down and that was when I thought it would be okay to release him," Paul said.
But the man jumped to his feet and started verbally abusing the store assistant.
Paul said: "He kept challenging me and saying that he has fought bigger guys than me. He also waved his arms wildly, as though he was trying to show off his martial arts skills."
Paul said he kept his cool and did not react to the man's provocation.
Meanwhile, a crowd of onlookers had gathered. Some of them whipped out their mobile phones to record what was happening.
That was when the man turned violent and ran towards an onlooker on his left.
Using his elbow, he landed several blows on the onlooker's face and followed up with a series of punches and kicks.
The onlooker retaliated with a punch.
All hell broke loose as a group of unknown men ran towards the alleged shoplifter and attacked him.
He collapsed after receiving a few blows, pulling down a few shelves of electronic gadgets as he fell.
Despite this, his assailants continued punching and kicking him.
Said a witness, who gave TNP a photograph he had taken of the fracas: "It was crazy. Everyone just went for him and it was like a free-for-all."
The commotion lasted about a minute.
The man and his attackers were separated by security guards and the store assistant, who ran in and shouted for everyone to disperse.
The store was left in a mess, with items scattered all over the floor.
Said Paul: "We spent a lot of time putting everything back so that we could resume business."
Sim Lim Square security staff said they could not comment about the incident, but said that "everything was back to normal" at about 3.30pm.
The police are investigating.
It was crazy. Everyone just went for him and it was like a free-for-all.
- A witness
(The) difference between defending yourself and assaulting someone depends on the intention, whether excessive force was used and whether the person was injured.
- Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam
1 After he is accused of stealing a pair of headphones, the man verbally abuses a store assistant. He then removes his shirt to expose his tattoo-covered torso while gesturing wildly and screaming loudly. A crowd gathers.
2 When the man realises he is being filmed, he punches and kicks the onlooker who was filming with his mobile phone. The onlooker retaliates with a punch.
3 Suddenly, a group of men charge towards the alleged shoplifter and rain blows on him. Even as he falls to the ground, they continue to punch and kick him. Security guards and others intervene.
4 Police officers reach the store and arrest the alleged shoplifter. His assailants, after being questioned by officers, are also nabbed.
SIM LIM SQUARE'S ERRANT SHOPS
Some shops in Sim Lim Square have a habit of being in the news for all the wrong reasons.
It is usually because of loud disputes that erupt when customers accuse these shops of overcharging.
And because the shops are owned by individuals, there is little the building management can do.
In 2012, a complaint booth was set up to tackle the problem of shops overcharging customers.
The top 10 shops that received the most complaints were identified and shamed via notices pasted within the building.
But some of these errant shops then came up with ways to mask their dubious reputations.
Tactics include shrinking the shop's name to a small section of their main signboard, or simply removing it. Others even change the name.
In extreme cases, they register as a new company, renovate or move to another mall.