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Toronto councillor confronts thieves, makes citizens’ arrest outside Leaside Home Depot

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A trip to a home improvement store in Toronto’s east end turned into to quite an ordeal for one Toronto city councillor on Wednesday morning.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Coun. Jon Burnside, who represents Don Valley East, stopped by the Home Depot near Laird Drive and Eglinton Avenue East and before even entering the premises encountered two males who appeared to be leaving with shopping carts full of stolen Dewalt power tools.

Burnside, a former Toronto police officer, told NewsTalk 1010’s Jerry Agar that he was “minding his own business” as he headed towards one of the store’s exit doors when he heard security alarms going off.

“Both males were wearing COVID masks, which I found a little bit curious so I yelled at them as they kind of walked by me with haste,” he said, adding that he pulled out his camera to record the incident when one of the males turned away from him.

“And then he sort of came back towards me, and I said ‘You stole those.’

A bit of a tussle then ensued as the man became upset and hurled some expletives his way, Burnside said. The councillor said that he then grabbed the cart which led to a “tug back and forth” before the suspect uttered a death threat.

“It was sort of past the point of no return where I felt I had to a protect myself and make the attempt to make the arrest, which I did,” said Burnside.

“My natural reaction is to obviously step up and do something. … I just I find it so offensive that people are doing this in the community at 9 a.m. in the morning, shopping carts full of $2,000 or $3,000 of stolen items, and then they actually turn on me, like I’m the bad guy.”

Two other customers, a man named Rob Hughes as well as an unnamed off-duty Toronto firefighter, then stepped in to help subdue the male until the police arrived about 15 minutes later.

“I don’t know what he was on or but he had what felt like superhuman strength. Eventually, I’d say about 10 Home Depot staff came out and kind of just stood and watched,” Burnside said.

“So I yelled, ‘Anyone called 911? We need your help.,’ because, as they say, this guy was very energetic, to say the least, and threatening and so forth.”

Burnside said that one of his old high school friends who was also shopping at Home Depot at the time stopped and called 911.

Hughes told Agar that he was on his way to his car in the parking lot when he heard yelling and ran over to help thwart the theft in progress.

“You know, it was fight or flight,” said Hughes, who initially went after the other suspect.

He said that man ended up dropping the stolen goods and running off.

Hughes said he then moved in to assist Burnside who was holding the other suspect.

“The other guy was with Jon and I felt that he needed some help. I mean, he’s a much bigger guy than me, but I had to get step in and do my duty,” he said.

Toronto police eventually arrived and arrested the suspect.

Media relations officer Const. Cindy Chung told CP24.com that officers attended the Home Depot in Leaside for a theft-in-progress at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

She said that customers were “holding a suspect who tried to leave to store with unpaid merchandise.”

The suspect was then taken into custody by police, Chung said.

Police do not have any information at this point about the other suspect who fled.

The investigation is ongoing.

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