British Columbia

Joel Pipher describes pulling child from would-be abductor's arms

Joel Pipher was buying groceries for breakfast when he saw a man grab a child from a stroller, and a mother struggle to get her baby back.

26-year-old bystander helped stop attempted baby abduction in Vancouver grocery store

'He wouldn't let go of the child'

8 years ago
Duration 2:12
Vancouver man describes pulling would-be abductor from baby

A bystander who intervened in what police called the attempted abduction of a baby in an East Vancouver grocery store Saturday says he had to pull the would-be abductor's arms off the child.

"I was trying to talk him down and he wouldn't let go of the child, so that was a pretty scary thing," said Joel Pipher.

Pipher, 26, walked into his neighbourhood grocery store, Donald's Market, to get provisions for a late breakfast Saturday morning.

Vancouver police say a man tried to abduct an infant in its stroller Saturday morning at Donald's Market at 2279 Commercial Drive. (Google streetview)

In the crowded market, he noticed "something strange" out of the corner of his eye: a man reaching into a stroller and grabbing a child.

"Right away, obviously the mother tried to take her child back, and kind of a weird tug-of-war ensued," said Pipher. That's when he and another customer stepped in.

Pipher said the man seemed mentally unstable and was saying things about the safety of the child, which was a "red flag" to him.

"It was pretty obvious this wasn't his child, so what was he doing trying to take the kid away."

James Allan Duncan, 61, has been charged with assault and two counts of uttering threats in relation to the incident Saturday. He is undergoing a psychological assessment as part of the court process.

'I've gotta get this guy away from her'

Pipher said intervening when the mother was trying to protect her child was a "no-brainer."

"I was probably one of the closest people to the situation. If I wasn't there someone else would have done the same thing."

When the child was returned to his mother, she quickly left the store, said Pipher.

Pipher said he escorted the man out of Donald's Market, stopping him from grabbing food on the stands outside.

Pipher walked him a block down the street, in the opposite direction from where he saw the mother flee.

The 26-year-old's only regret is not asking someone to call police immediately. The man is accused of uttering threats at another baby after leaving the store, before police made an arrest.

"I was thinking I've gotta get this guy away from her, the mother, away from the child and away from anybody else."