British Columbia

Victim of theft warns against citizen's arrest after almost getting stabbed

Construction worker Bryon Sears tracked down the thief who stole his stuff on Craigslist to make a citizen's arrest.

Bryon Sears gets into altercation with thief after tracking him down through Craigslist

Bryon Sears tried on his own to get his stolen property, it led to an altercation that ended with an arrest and a bloody nose. (CBC)

A victim of theft is warning others against confronting suspected criminals after he was nearly stabbed while making a citizen's arrest.

A knife was pulled on Bryon Sears during an encounter when he arranged to meet a person he believed had stolen his tools.

"If people are willing to steal from you to sell, to make money, there's a pretty good chance they're already backed into a corner in life already, you could've just pushed them further," he said.

"You just never know how a person like that might react."

Sears said the thief had stolen a pricey and critical piece of equipment from him, something he couldn't afford to replace — a harness he uses to scale buildings when painting.

Bryon Sears uses a harness to scale buildings for his painting gigs. (Bryon Sears)

He turned to Craigslist where he quickly found it for sale for only $200, so he set up a meeting with the seller outside the Stadium SkyTrain station.

Sears said he arrived early to explain to Transit security his plans. They could keep watch and call Vancouver police, he thought. 

But, things didn't quite turn out that way.

"I don't think they understood what I was saying," said Sears.

Bryon Sears explained to CBC Vancouver News host Andrew Chang his stolen equipment was worth nearly $2,000, a cost he couldn't replace. (CBC)

When the suspected thief arrived with the harness, Sears says he played along and asked to try it on.

"In the process, he's going through a bag to pull out more of my items he had taken to sell back to me."

"So I put my hand on his shoulder and said, 'Would you mind taking a look at this picture. Doesn't this gear look really familiar? Pretty sure you stole this from me the other day.'"

Immediately, Sears said he noticed the suspected thief started to back away.

"I grab him by the scruff of his neck and said, 'You're not going anywhere. I'm placing you under citizen's arrest for possession of stolen property,'" recalled Sears.

The thief responded by punching Sears in the face, leaving him with a bloody nose, he said.

Sears said he then grabbed the suspect with both hands and pinned him to the ground. After nearly eight minutes, the painter said he got tired and had to get up.

As soon as he was released, the suspect reached into his pocket for a knife that he waved threateningly, Sears said.

Dozens of people had surrounded him, many filming with cellphone cameras, Sears said.

Transit Police respond

Transit police say Sears spoke to a SkyTrain attendant when he arrived at the scene, not a police officer, and they say the attendant called police when the fight started, and Transit Police were on the scene six minutes later and made an arrest.

"I'm proud of my members and their rapid response to this call. We pride ourselves on getting to a scene as quickly as possible and taking the necessary action. Our officers intervened immediately and their quick response saved Mr. Sears from further injury and enabled the return of his property," said Transit Police Chief Doug Lepard. 

Transit Police encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to call police first, and allow officers to handle the situation in a safe manner, said a statement from the department.

The Craigslist ad that Bryon Sears found and responded to when seeking out his stolen tools. (Craigslist)

In retrospect, Sears admits he should've left things to police no matter how desperate he was to get his gear back and he'd never do something like this again.

"Most definitely not, I have a 12 year old daughter I need to think about." he said, thinking about a phone call he had with her just prior to the encounter.

"That could've been the last conversation I had with my daughter."

In a statement, Vancouver Police Const. Brian Montague said the man who met with Sears was arrested and charges are being recommended.

While citizen's arrests are legal, Montague says they do not recommend it. Instead, police ask the public to contact them before meeting someone who is believed to be in possession of their stolen property

"It is fortunate this situation ended with no one seriously injured. You never know who you are dealing with when you meet a stranger online." 

It was distinct paint markings like this that Bryon Sears said helped him recognize his specific harness. (CBC)

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story contained unsubstantiated allegations that Transit Police officers stood by stunned as a fight took place. In fact, Transit Police say they were called to the scene after a fight broke out, and made an arrest soon after arriving.
    Apr 07, 2016 1:27 PM PT

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