A shoplifter in Clackamas was caught on camera Sunday afternoon getting violent over some used clothes and shoes.
The owner of Plato’s Closet, George Merkl, said he and another employee were assaulted by the shopper.
“It was such a violent, hard hit. It was just one after another. At one point, I think it was the last blow that did it. Everything went black. I don’t know, I thought maybe I blacked out for a moment,” he said. “I’m still shocked that over items, clothing, shoes, that it would go to that level. That degree.”
Both Merkl and the store manager, Joanna Beall, said they had a sense they should keep an eye on a shopper, who was upset after his belongings were donated Saturday night.
“He just seemed to be really agitated,” said Beall.
Merkl told FOX 12, “He was very rude to [Beall], acting in an unfriendly manner and she was concerned.”
Employees said he came in Saturday to sell his things and left them overnight, an indication they can be donated to charity.
But Beall said the man wasn't happy about it when he came back in Sunday.
“Our thought was maybe this was a retaliation on his part,” said Merkl.
On Sunday, he began grabbing armfuls of merchandise.
“Shoes, jeans, coats. everything,” Beall said. “One of the things you learn really quick here is suspicious activity and that was definitely one.”
But seconds later, he dashed for the door where Merkl had been standing guard after Beall told him about the erratic activity.
“Ran straight into me. Knocked me down to the ground,” Merkl said.
Beall said, “He just started wailing on him, hitting him in the face, in the head, in the mouth, in the ear.”
She told FOX 12 she rushed to Merkl’s side and tried to stop the suspect by pulling down his pants.
“I just tried to at least get his hands distracted, that he would at least want to pull his pants up — which worked,” Beall said.
Though the suspect stopped punching Merkl, they said he came back twice to grab the clothes.
However, they were able to chase him off and follow him while on the phone with 911 dispatchers.
“Kind of a cat-and-mouse. He ran down to 82nd, then I saw him turn. Then I saw him hop on the bus,” said Merkl.
He tells FOX 12 he chased him to a few different locations, before he and Beall both lost sight of the suspect.
Deputies didn’t arrive in time to catch him, either.
“As a small business owner, there’s so many challenges we have to work through. And one that we didn’t expect is to come to work, provide value to the community, and basically be beaten up for it,” Merkl said.
Beall only had a sore knee after the incident, but Merkl said he suffered a severe eye injury in the assault that he’ll have to live with for the rest of his life.
“The vitreous has separated from the back of my eye, and there is no cure, no treatment. And now for the remainder of my life, I’m going to have to deal with this injury. Really, truly tragic,” Merkl said.
Merkl said it’s routine to copy shoppers’ licenses when they sell items to them, and they do have the suspect’s information which they have given to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said they have a person of interest in the case and are following up, but no one has been arrested.
Merkl said last year they lost about $26,000 from shoplifting and are exploring options to move locations now more than ever.
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