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Andrew Adams, Deseret News
Police say a suspected thief is in critical condition after getting into an argument outside a hardware store in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 2, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — A suspected shoplifter apprehended by several bystanders at a Salt Lake City hardware store remained in critical condition at a local hospital on Friday.

Police say it was still not clear whether the man, whose name was not released, would survive.

The unusual incident happened Thursday about 7 p.m. at Ace Hardware, 612 E. 400 South. A man attempted to walk out of the store with items in his pocket that he hadn't paid for, according to Salt Lake City police. A couple of employees attempted to stop the man and a struggle ensued, prompting two bystanders to join in and help the workers, according to police.

The workers and witnesses got the man onto the ground, and by the time an officer arrived at the scene, the man was unresponsive. But what caused his injuries was still unknown Friday.

According to police, the man did not have any obvious signs of trauma. Investigators were looking at whether the man may have suffered a medical condition during the struggle and stopped breathing.

When the officer arrived on scene, he placed the man in handcuffs as a precaution, a standard procedure.

But because the man was placed in handcuffs, and because it was unclear Friday whether he would survive, an officer-involved critical incident protocol response was invoked, Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking said.

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According to Wilking, the critical incident investigation was required by law because handcuffs were applied, even though the man was already unresponsive when police arrived and the officer did not use any force. If the man had been taken away by ambulance without being handcuffed, there would not have been an officer-involved critical incident investigation, he said.

Unified police were conducting the investigation into the incident. The officer who handcuffed the man was not placed on paid administrative leave.

Wilking said the investigation would look at how many people were involved in the initial struggle and what caused the allege shoplifter's injuries.