Airdrie RCMP has arrested five male youth offenders for an incident at CrossIron Mills mall near Balzac Oct. 27, according to Alberta RCMP Media Spokesman Cpt. Curtis Peters. Because the five are youth offenders, their names are not being released.
Dozens of shoppers were affected after the five accused discharged bear spray at the busy mall, according to Peters.
Peters said the incident took place at approximately 7:15 p.m. in the food hall at CrossIron Mills. Six people required treatment by EMS and an additional 20 suffered the ill effects of the bear spray.
According to Peters, the group of five young men entered the mall after arriving in a stolen vehicle.
Peters said the five entered the food court and attempted to steal a number of tip jars from the various vendors.
“When confronted by some of the employees, one of them pulled out a can of bear spray and sprayed one of the employees as well as a citizen who tried to intervene and stop him from fleeing,” he said. “That individual happened to have their young child standing right next to them so that child also was contaminated.”
The suspects ran from the mall and fled in a silver Hyundai Elantra with Alberta License Plate BVV0131. Peters said the vehicle had previously been reported stolen from Calgary.
Thanks to tips from the public, police were able to track the five suspects to Calgary. They were arrested Oct. 31 by Airdrie RCMP with the assistance of the Calgary Police Service at three locations in Calgary, including one school.
Peters said the investigation is ongoing and RCMP is working to determine if there are additional individuals involved. The stolen vehicle has not yet been recovered.
Charges are pending against all five suspects. Peters said he believed they had been released from custody pending an upcoming court appearance. The date of that appearance was not known by press time.
Initial RCMP reports indicated the involvement of only four individuals, however Peters said there were actually five.
“Through the course of the investigation, we determined there was another individual involved who wasn’t necessarily featured on the video and images that we had,” he said.
According to Peters, bear spray is a particulate that comes out in a cloud and disperses over a wide area.
“It’s meant to make a big cloud and keep a grizzly bear away so it impacts a really large area,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be used indoors at all.”
Bear spray affects an individual’s mucosal membranes – including the eyes, nose and throat – and the respiratory system.
“It gets inhaled and all of a sudden you’ll feel like you’re choking. It gets in your lungs and in your throat and makes it difficult to breath. It can be quite dangerous for anybody that has respiratory disorders like asthma,” he said. “The particles will stick to the wet area and it burns and hurts.”