Friday, November 12, 2010

Canadian wheelchair user stops crime at convenience store

From CBC News in Canada:

A Vancouver man who uses a wheelchair is being hailed as a hero after coming to the aid of a shopkeeper defending herself against an angry customer.

The customer was trying to pass a counterfeit $50 bill in Cindy Grewal's East Vancouver convenience store on Saturday night, the shopkeeper said.

When she told him she would not honour the currency and refused to return it to the man, he got angry and came behind the counter, Grewal said.

That's when Larry Skopnik got involved.

"Boom, I try to grab him," said Skopnik, who is paraplegic and has been using a wheelchair since breaking his back 10 years ago.

The two men started throwing punches at each other.

"His weight pulled me out of my chair," Skopnik said.

Larry Skopnik, in the green-check jacket on the right, wrestles with the angry customer while Grewal steps in from the left and other customers stand ready to help. (CBC)He said he continued to hold on to the man until two other men came to Skopnik's aid and held the man until police arrived.

Grewal, who has been in the convenience store business for 25 years, said she is grateful for people like Larry, who's long been a regular customer.

"My heart goes to him," she said. "Not even thinking for a moment that he is in a wheelchair … Such a sweetheart."

Skopnik said he was just doing the right thing to the best of his ability.

"Just because I am in a chair doesn't mean I can't stand up and do something righteous and do the right thing," he said. "Afterwards I thought about a knife or something, but at the time, it was just about helping my friend the clerk.

"I'm 200-plus pounds, six foot three. It's just in my blood to stand up for the small person."

The man was briefly taken into custody but released without charges.

Grewal said police told her the assault was minor and it would be difficult to prove the man knew the money was fake.

Skopnik was not pleased with the outcome.

"When people can get away with these things over and over again, what's stopping them?" he said. "It's just going to escalate."

Grewal said experience tells her the man who came at her Saturday night will likely never set foot again in her store.