‘Follow court case’: Peterborough police chief responds after employee accused of assaulting thief

Peterborough’s police chief is defending his officers in the face of social media backlash after a store employee was accused of assaulting an alleged robber armed with a baseball bat last week.

In a lengthy statement published on X, Chief Stu Betts said the “commentary” that followed a police press release detailing the early morning convenience store robbery last week is “unfair to the men and women” of the force.

“Yes, this case is unusual, but in a world where there are security cameras everywhere, do you really think we wouldn’t have seized and reviewed the footage as part of the investigation and before pressing charges?” Betts wrote.

Police said officers were called to the store in King and Bethune streets at approximately 2:30 am on January 5.

When officers arrived at the scene, police said, they learned that an employee was helping a customer when a second man entered the store, demanded money and brandished a baseball bat.

A struggle ensued and the employee was hit by the bat before taking it from the suspect, police said.

According to police, when the suspect fled the store, the employee allegedly followed him to the sidewalk and hit him “several times” with the bat.

The 37-year-old suspect suffered head injuries, the extent of which was not disclosed by police, and was taken to a Toronto hospital. The 22-year-old employee was also treated at the scene by paramedics, police said.

Police said an arrest warrant was issued for the 37-year-old suspect on charges of robbery, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon.

But it’s the fact that the employee was charged with aggravated assault that has sparked online criticism of Peterborough police.

“Was the employee who was attacked charged?” one X user wrote in all caps in response to the press release being posted. “You have to be kidding me. Why accuse someone who defends himself?” wrote another.

Little is known about what led officers to file charges against the employee, and as of this writing, police have not released surveillance footage of the incident. However, Betts urged the public to follow the court proceedings to get the full story.

“…if you want to know what led to the charges, follow the case in court. Let the facts of the case guide your comments and opinions, not your reaction to a headline,” Betts said.

Police have not identified the employee and the legal status of his case is unclear. A spokesperson for the Peterborough Police Service told CTV News Toronto that the accused was arrested and appeared in court on January 6, details of which were not released. Police said they were “unaware” of his upcoming court appearance.

While it’s unclear what comments Betts was referring to in his statement, he said the filing of charges against the secretary was based on “facts.”

“It’s not about politics; Politics has nothing to do with facts. This is not a race issue, as some have suggested. This is not the perception that criminals go free while crime victims are punished; it’s about the law,” he said.

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