One teen has been charged and two other suspects are at large after a violent assault and robbery at a Winnipeg Liquor Mart location on Wednesday.
Just before 4 p.m., three suspects entered the Tyndall Park Liquor Mart on Keewatin Street armed with knives. Police say while two suspects stole multiple liquor products, another became enraged at staff.
The teenage boy punched a female employee in the head, while assaulting another female employee — unprovoked — as he exited the store. The second victim was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital in critical condition. She has since been upgraded to stable. The first employee was able to retreat safely to an office.
Police say the three suspects left the store and assaulted patrons in the attached mall. One employee of a nearby business was assaulted, but didn’t require hospitalization.
The same suspect from the first attack then confronted a woman in a vehicle with her daughter. He threatened them and attempted to carjack their vehicle, but wasn’t successful.
He later walked away and tried to rob two females of their purses, threatening them with a liquor bottle while they lay on the ground. Several people nearby intervened and held the suspect for police.
A 15-year-old boy has been charged with six counts of robbery, aggravated assault, three counts of assault, six counts of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, possession of a weapon and mischief under $5,000.
He remains in custody. Police are continuing their search for the other two suspects.
The attack prompted Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries to hold a late-night news conference Wednesday, addressing the situation and revealing plans to implement secure entrances at some of its stores. The first store to receive the new entrance will be Tyndall Park, where the assaults happened. Officials say customers will notice the new measures in the coming days, while other Liquor Mart locations will follow suit in the months to come.
The union that represents liquor store workers said it welcomes the change, but more steps are needed.
“I started getting text messages and emails late last evening and I started getting emails again at four o’clock this morning from members scared to go to work,” Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, said.
“They feel that their workplaces aren’t the safest they can be.”
Gawronsky said some liquor outlets are inside grocery stores, so a secure separate entrance may be challenging.
Premier Brian Pallister said a message must be sent that thieves will face the full force of the law. He criticized people who might excuse the robbers as victims of poverty.
“There’s a need to stop describing people who hurt other people as victims,” Pallister said.
“Stop making the false assertion that people who have come from tough backgrounds — like many, many Manitobans who would never, ever hurt anyone else have — somehow that some of those people have an excuse to beat up somebody else. It’s just a phoney excuse.”
— With files from The Canadian Press