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Vigilante hero protecting LCBO booze packs a hard punch

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Brazen theft from LCBO wasn’t ignored by this customer

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Move over Batman. Just call this vigilante justice warrior Boozeman!

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Thanks to this yet-to-be-identified champion of legal alcohol sales, the hangover feeling like a punch in the head that a thief may be experiencing today was not from drinking too much — it was from an actual punch in the head!

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These thieves thought stealing three bags full of bottles of booze from the LCBO was going to be easy. Not so fast, said a customer who tried to cut them off early.

“LCBO is aware of the shop theft incident at one of our Etobicoke store locations on Friday, April 19 and are grateful that there were no reported injuries,” acknowledges the LCBO press office. “We are working collaboratively with law enforcement to hold those responsible accountable.”

Police certainly have some good video evidence to go on. Toronto Police Const. Cindy Chung said a report has been filed and officers are investigating what happened.

“Theft is on the rise across the retail industry,” says the LCBO. “Any theft is a concern, especially if it is brazen or a threat to safety.”

Steal from the liquor store. Steal from the grocery store. Steal from the jewelry store. It seems there is not a damned thing anybody can do about it. The usual advice is to not interfere and let the crooks escape unchallenged.

This LCBO customer didn’t get the memo. In fact, as three people — two males and a female — helped themselves to high-end spirits at the store on The Queensway, he put up his dukes and protected the product.

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A viral video shows this mystery man taking exception and physically trying to stop thieves from getting away. As staff and security stood back and stayed out of it, this customer stood in the way of the trio at the door and when one of the three appeared to go for something in his pocket, the man threw a punch.

And then another punch.

“Back off, he’s got a knife,” one voice can be heard saying of the thief.

Soon after, one of the suspects appeared to bring out a full glass bottle of whisky and use it as a weapon which did not stop the man from throwing a hard right, the sound of which made it seem like it landed.

As all of this was going on, you can hear both male and female voices saying, “let them go, sir” and “It’s not worth it.”

It would be interesting to interview the hero customer to learn his perspective on it. Was it worth the risk? Did he feel his own safety was in jeopardy?

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Certainly it is mayhem out there now.

We have all seen the videos of a group of people with hammers smashing and grabbing items at jewelry stores and now there’s a social media campaign encouraging people to steal from Loblaws. It’s all outrageous to the law-abiding, hardworking people who pay for the products with money earned.

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But thefts at the LCBO are routine. Many times it’s by people who appear to be impaired and looking for alcohol for their own use. However, it has also been known to be organized. Police have laid charges against people stealing thousands of dollars worth of alcohol as part of what OPSEU, the union that represents LCBO workers, has in the past said is in the tens of millions of dollars a year.

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“LCBO employees receive regular, mandatory training in theft detection, deterrence and reporting,” says the LCBO press office. “This training focuses on personal safety, observation and gathering information to support police investigations.”

The LCBO has not confirmed a dollar figure. In its latest annual report, it did say that it turns over $2.5 billion to the Ontario government in revenue. So any bottle stolen from a store is money taken from taxpayers. The losses may seem small on the scale of the overall business but they are large for those who are paying full prices.

This video shows the people loading up bags of booze looking like they had no fear of getting caught. However, they read it wrong this time. It’s risky on all fronts to step into something like that. Being wounded is a very real possibility or even charged criminally, as what happened to store clerk Tejeshwar Kalia in an incident in Peterborough.

“We ask our customers not to physically confront shoplifters,” says the LCBO. “The safety of our customers and our employees are our top priority.”

A bottle of whisky can be replaced while a human life cannot.

That said, many say there is something satisfying about seeing a citizen stand up as this man did. While the system says he shouldn’t do something like that, for a public frustrated by rising crime, one can understand them enjoying watching a video of someone who did.

And raising a toast to the Boozeman!

jwarmington@postmedia.com

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