A simple shoplifting case turned into an aggravated assault for several grocery store employees Thursday night.
But it might have been much worse had it not been for the quick action of those employees, according to a Salt Lake police report.The incident began shortly before 8 p.m. at Harmon's, 3620 S. 1300 East, when the store's assistant manager suspected a man of stealing a case of beer, the report said.
The assistant manager and another store employee confronted the man, who was also carrying a cloth bag from the store. They asked for a receipt, and he said he could produce one. He searched his pockets for a few moments and was unable to find the receipt, so one of the store employees grabbed him, the report said.
They took him to a security office to wait for police. One of the store's employees said he asked the suspect to remove his coat. He refused twice. When one of the store employees tried to remove the man's coat, he pulled a sawed-off shotgun from his waistband and pointed it at the assistant manager, the report said.
The store's manager entered the room at just that moment but quickly left. The gunman hollered to the manager to come back into the room, or he'd shoot both of the men in the room, the report said.
The manager came back inside the storeroom. When the gunman turned his attention from the two men to the manager, one of them jumped on him and grabbed the shotgun, the report said.
All three store employees got involved in the melee, during which, one of the shells in the shotgun's chamber fell out, the report said. The fight ended when the store's manager wrapped his legs around the shoplifter's neck and squeezed him until he quit struggling.
A fourth store employee then ran into the room and wrapped the man's legs and feet in duct tape, the report said. When police arrived, the man was unconscious but breathing.
The gunman was wearing a homemade ammunition belt that held 18 live shotgun rounds.
He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and concealing a weapon.