Restrained a thief carrying needles. Feedback discussion

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Southpaw535, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    So today's shift at work took a lively turn when I ended up dealing with a shoplifter who, shocker from the title, ended up threatening me with needles and having some in his pocket. I wanted to do a thread about it for three main reasons.

    1. The obvious somewhat masturbatory self congratulating on using my training well
    2. I'm already starting to forget stuff, and if the police come back for a statement then doing this will help clear things in my head.
    3. I thought this was a good opportunity to use a real scenario to feed a discussion about what was done well/could have been done better. Discuss how others would have dealt with it and what lessons can be learnt, both for me and hopefully some other people too.

    So delving into it:

    A customer barred the thief from leaving and told us he was stealing. Thief started jostling with the guy as one of my colleagues reacted first and took hold of his arm, with the thief holding his other over his jacket which was clearly loaded with whatever he'd pinched. I reached them and asked for the stock back, not sure at what point I ended up taking hold of his jacket as he tried to leave the store. This carried on for a couple seconds, him trying to barge past me and me holding his jacket asking him to stop, return the stock and we'd let him leave.

    Ended up outside at which point he got quite aggressive. His jacket had come undone somewhat and 2 other colleagues had started retrieving stock from inside it. I was still holding him, by this point had an underhook on one arm as he kept reaching down, my other hand trying to get the rest of our stock from under his jacket, and trying to stop him moving with head control.

    He continued struggling and threatening me, the usual "you best get off me now mate, swear down as soon as you get off me" etc etc. He was getting increasingly aggressive and ignoring me telling him to stop reaching for his pocket so I pulled him off the wall and spun him onto the floor. No idea if there's a technical term for whatever underhook leverage-y throw it was.

    As best I can remember at this point he ended up on his front and I had side back mount with wrist control of one arm, just trying to keep it collapsed and him flat to prevent him fighting us. Quite soon around now is when he told me he had a needle in his pocket so I best let him go. Told him I can't let him up if he has a needle as I can't risk the safety of me or anyone else and to stop fighting me, while telling a colleague to phone the police.

    At some point around here I felt his teeth on the back of my hand and turned him over with a half nelson, telling him not to try and bite me and to keep his hands away from his pocket. He was on his side and I couldn't clearly see his hands. By this point an onlooker had confirmed he definitely had needles in his pocket. One had fallen out and I managed to toss it under a nearby car but since I couldn't see his hands i ended up taking a kimura on his side, switching to a knee on his head to try and cause pressure once he used his free hand to try and grab my testicles.

    This played out pretty much the same for a while. Got another colleague to grab his free arm as I couldn't control it, and the guy kept alternating between grabbing my hands, grabbing my colleagues fingers, and complaining I was hurting his arm. I think by this point I'd lost the kimura tension but still had the hand positioning.

    Eventually he managed to sit up with me behind him still controlling his wrist, had switched from threatening us to complaining he was only 18 and we were assaulting him, at which point I told him he'd threatened me with a needle, the police were on the way and I couldn't risk letting him go. He kept asking for a fag which we refused, but a regular beggar lit one and held it for him, with me warning him if he tried to burn us with it I'd take him back down again and reminding him we were on concrete (I am worried here about the fact I essentially threatened him, despite it being in the interest of maintaining my safety.) He also started asking for his shoe back and trying to put it on, at which point I moved him into a half nelson as I didn't want him reaching down near his pockets.

    Shortly after that (cctv says about 13 minutes after the start) police arrived and took him off us. And then didn't ask for a statement and as best as I'm aware let the shoplifter with a pocketful of needles he'd threatened me with go. Not that I'm bitter about that at all.

    So that's the unnecessarily dragged out explanation of what happened.

    From my view, I feel I handled it pretty well. My main problems are:

    - I'm not sure if I should have let him up off the ground once he'd stopped resisting, even if I'd kept hold of his arms.

    - I'm quite happy I'm good with the use of force, but in terms of asking others to intervene, I didn't want to put anyone else at risk and figured I had a handle on it, but I'm curious if it could have been better to get more assistance and have him properly pinned rather than risk a continued struggle by largely restraining him myself, or if having more people involved presents a higher risk of escalation?

    Beyond that, like I said, I kind of just wanted to share the story and see if anyone has any thoughts about where things could have/did go wrong, what could have been done better, or just how you would have handled it differently?
    Botta Dritta, bassai, Mitch and 5 others like this.
  2. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    Wait, what?

    He bit and went for the bag-grab and it didn't instantly nullify all your grappling training?

    Does not compute. :D

    My other half worked in retail in Bristol for a god while. There was around 1 case every year or two when a security guard would get stuck with a needle and had to go to hospital to be given antiretroviral drugs. Store security do not get paid enough to have to deal with that.

    Yeah, best not to, in case it was a ruse to get you to ease up so he could escalate further.

    I don't think so. Overwhelming odds can have a de-escalating effect.
    Botta Dritta, Thomas and Southpaw535 like this.
  3. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Great work, Aaron.

    Once the situation goes physical it's a constant evaluation and this is where an understanding of the law comes in.

    If you haven't seen it take a look at this thread Self Defence - The Law - And You

    You have to keep asking yourself does the aggressor still show intent, have the means and the opportunity.

    Then there is the level of threat. You may have had to go from a simple control to knocking / choking him out should he have reached for a needle.

    Biting is an escalation, so you may have had to use that as an argument for your increased level of control.

    Post conflict articulation is a skill that requires practice.

    If that interests anyone reading this you could watch a video of someone defending themselves and write a statement from their point of view.

    What happened, why did they take the action they did and most importantly, why?

    You need to justify your actions, as simply saying, "I was in fear for my safety" won't wash.

    Overall a good job well done.

    The aggressor in the hands of the police and nobody hurt.
    Mitch, Southpaw535 and Monkey_Magic like this.
  4. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Southpaw, I am happy you got through that with your skills! But can you fill me in? Is it part of your job to stop thieves? Otherwise, you would have just let him go, right?
  5. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Got a lol out of me. To be fair to him he didn't commit to either of them. They may well have worked if he'd actually gone for it

    Although the problem came in once he managed to get up himself anyway. At that point I see my choices as quite limited if they're not still being aggressive. Stood up is something I don't feel comfortable keeping someone for a long time, but we're on concrete so I don't fancy tripping someone back down in case they bash their head. Especially in circumstances like this where I'm not going to want to risk letting wrists go, which obviously also means removing their ability to protect their head in the fall. Obviously don't need to suplex the dude, but I don't know any trips or easier takedowns that wouldn't still carry a risk of their head hitting the floor first.

    Where does the line blur between this and "I was in fear of my safety" not being acceptable though? I assume its if the latter can still be rationally justified?

    Like in this situation, by the end of it the guy wasn't threatening anymore and in hindsight just seemed like a scared guy out of his depth, struggling with being controlled. Which I definitely remember feeling when I first started grappling so I can empathise. I didn't want to let him go because I felt worried about my safety, but given he's no longer trying to fight me and is just pleading to be let up, am I still justified in deciding to keep him restrained if he doesn't show intent any longer?

    I would have thought so, but it's been a couple days and no one has contacted the store for a statement from me or for our cctv, and a customer did say they just let him go. Which if you can steal a bunch of stuff, have needles on you and threaten someone with them and just be allowed to walk on your way then, well, this is why stores never bother calling them.
    David Harrison likes this.
  6. Southpaw535

    Southpaw535 Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Not really, but it's a difficult situation to deal with. For a couple reasons.

    1. As easy as it is for people to say "oh just ignore them its not your problem" it is an incredibly frustrating experience to deal with multiple times a day.
    2. Portsmouth has an above average problem with it from what I understand anecdotally and it's not going away any time soon. Police are, much as I respect them, 100% useless with shoplifting for a myriad of reasons. Some I completely understand, some I disagree with.
    3. My company won't spring for security like every other major retailer in this city has had to do over the last year and a half or so. It has got notably far worse but rather than follow suit and bite the cost of permanent, in house security, we still hire a company that, no kidding, has 2 security guards to cover the whole city plus extra. In a city that has dozens of stores, all of which deal with this to varying degrees. I actually now work in a store that's one of the least problematic and I still have to deal with it at least 4 or 5 times in a 6 hour shift.

    And as much as the companies stance may be that it's not our job, rather than invest in security, they have invested a lot of money into giving us radios and facial recognition cameras which ping up for the duty manager (moi) when shoplifters enter the store. If they don't want us to act on that information then it seems like a very odd thing to introduce and a lot of money to waste.

    4. Normally we're not that hands on about it, but with the situation as it is at the moment I just have zero tolerance for it. I don't anyway after working with it for a couple years, but especially not when I'm daily dealing with people having to make tough purchasing decisions because of stock and purchasing limitations to then sit back and watch someone wipe us out of what stock we have left for people who are struggling.

    Obviously not the objectively smartest decision, and I acknowledge that. I wouldn't have stopped him had I known he was carrying. There's another 2 groups of regulars we get on the daily who are very clearly hard drug users that I refuse to interfere with because its not worth it. But the majority of thieves are people who will give it up and put stuff back once they're confronted so its a balancing act. This instance was also initiated by a customer and I didn't have any plans to make it what it turned into, the situation just developed into it.
  7. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    First thing that popped into my head:

  8. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    It isn't that it's not acceptable, but put yourself in the position of his defence lawyer.

    "You punched my client as he reached into his pocket and you claim he was going for a knife. I put it to you that he was simply reaching for his wallet."

    You'll get this from a defence lawyer and you'll have to argue your case.

    For example saying, "the aggressor bladed, that is to say he stood side on with his right hand dropped slightly behind him hidden from view. My fear was that he was reaching for a blade, as it wasn't the position you take during a normal, or even heated conversation."

    "In addition his wording became monosyllabic and his chest started to puff out as he spoke."

    You did well, you protected yourself and others, but anyone interested in self defence does need to understand the law and post conflict articulation.
    Monkey_Magic likes this.
  9. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    On that note: he was still carrying an offensive weapon (as previously his statements to you showed intent to use the syringes as such), and didn't he still have the stuff he'd stolen on him? You could argue that you were preventing a crime even if he had appeared to stop being a physical threat.

    I have a hard time imagining a magistrate taking the side of the shoplifter in a case such as this. As you know, people into self-defence put a lot more thought and care into this than the criminal justice system! ;)
  10. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    bassai, Southpaw535 and Monkey_Magic like this.
  11. combatarts

    combatarts Valued Member

    Needles are scary. Good thing you didn't get poked or at the very least you would need something like post-exposure prophylaxis in case the dude had HIV.

    Are you not allowed to pepper spray in that area/situation? I know it's not manly, but the first thing I would ever want to avoid in a street encounter is any type of ground game for obvious reasons. And causing bruising/bleeding with strikes is probably going to look bad, legally.
  12. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    This stood out for me. I seem to remember something similar happening in Birmingham city centre years ago with police and someone they were trying to detain. After being abusive and physically obstructive for ages they finally based and cuffed him concrete and then sat him up. He suddenly wanted a cigarette because he was 'really stressed'. Some homeless guy just materialized from the surrounding onlookers, lit one and wanted to give it to him, but a woman copper just stared at him evilly and he decided against and wandered off. For some reason i'd totally forgotten about this until now. I'm surprised you colleagues didn't tell the homeless guy to stop interfering.
  13. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    UK. So those kind of sprays (mace, pepper, CS, PAVA) counts as a firearm, therefore only Police are armed with them.

    In regards to minimal injury to a person being detained, thats why more is better. 4 limbs, 4 bodies.
    On a 1-1 situation, someone is getting struck or recieving a large amount of pain/discomfort.
    4 on 1 . Either less likely to fight back and less likely to get injured (with the right training and within reason)
  14. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    "Oh its only a cigarette"
    But then it could be laced with other drugs (weed, angel dust etc). Person detained then gets ill, potentially serious.

    Some Lawyer will then ask "who was he/she with" and then your name comes up. Next thing you know, youre in trouble.
    axelb likes this.
  15. combatarts

    combatarts Valued Member

    The same class as a firearm? Wow... What is the rationale for that? I know they have drawbacks, but especially if I was a woman, I would feel much safer if I and other women around me had pepper spray on them. I see benefits not only in evading an attacker, but also in stopping an attacker from leaving after the fact. For example, if a person threw acid on someone and tried to run, if a bystander sprayed them, it would be very difficult for them to get far before police arrived.
  16. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    Probably because they come with similar risks to firearms.

    They could be misused, of even your own used against you as easily as it being planned for "correct" use.

    In your example, the acid attacker could also have pepper spray?
  17. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    In UK its "any projectile" so that also counts archery (probably not spud guns tho lol)

    Its based on its designed use. So hairspray isnt a weapon but pepper spray is (altho I'll probably argue its just as toxic :D)
    axelb likes this.
  18. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Well-Known Member

    Did somebody say spud guns? Here is a photo of me practising my Spud Gun Kata.

    axelb likes this.
  19. Mushroom

    Mushroom De-powered to come back better than before.

    Sign me up and let me call you Sensei!

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