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Frozen shoplifter calls 911 after fleeing Mall at Rockingham Park; others use pepper spray to escape security

Union Leader Correspondent

February 16. 2017 3:15PM
Police are trying to identify two people who allegedly sprayed a pair of loss-prevention workers outside the Mall at Rockingham Park. 

SALEM — Police are trying to identify two alleged shoplifters who escaped from a Lord & Taylor store by temporarily blinding loss prevention workers with hot coffee and pepper spray.

Police released photos of a man and woman believed to have been the shoplifters who entered the store Wednesday just before 1:30 p.m. Police said the pair made off with about $686 worth of merchandise.

The brazen attack happened inside the Mall at Rockingham Park in a foyer and sitting area, police Capt. Joel Dolan said.

“It’s not one of the heavily traveled areas, but the mall was open and 1:30 on a Wednesday,” Dolan said.

Dispensing pepper spray in an open space can briefly contaminate an area and affect others, he said.

“You could have respiratory issues or problems with vision.”

Loss prevention workers began watching the pair because they were wearing sunglasses inside the store and the female appeared to be carrying a large, empty bag, police said.

The couple selected seven pairs of sweatpants and two hoodie sweatshirts, then entered the same fitting room. Only two pairs of sweatpants were left behind, police said.

Loss prevention workers followed the couple out of the store and into the mall. Once outside, the officers attempted to stop the pair.

The male threw a hot cup of coffee into the face of one of the officers, police said. The woman was heard telling her male accomplice to “close his eyes” before she sprayed them with what police believe was pepper spray.

“When responding officers got there, the two loss prevention officers were still on the ground and suffering from effects of pepper spray,” Dolan said.

Police officers, who are trained in using pepper spray, aided the loss prevention officers with flushing out their eyes. The loss prevention workers were examined by Salem Fire & Rescue workers, and declined to be taken to the hospital.

Dolan said the department also was disturbed by use of hot coffee, noting that it could have caused serious burns.

“They had no intention of being stopped,” Dolan said of the suspects.

The unidentified couple fled in an unknown direction through the mall. Dolan said his department is working to obtain video footage of the couple and making it public as part of the effort to identify and apprehend them.

Police expected to charge the two with felony robbery, which carries a potential state prison sentence.

Salem police also responded to a second unrelated shoplifting incident that resulted in a pursuit.

In that case, police arrested two men who took merchandise from the Sears store around 8:30 p.m., then climbed a fence to enter the closed Rockingham Park racetrack property.

William M. Ward, 32, of Tewksbury, Mass. was charged with one count each of willful concealment, criminal trespass, and resisting arrest or detention.

K9 Officer Paul Benoit and his dog, Dash, tracked down Ward hiding between some buildings that were in the process of being demolished, police said.

Hours later, his alleged partner called 911 around 2:30 a.m. reporting he was suffering from frostbite. Police responded to the call along with rescue workers and identified him as the other shoplifting suspect from Sears.

Joshua Bishop-Sullivan, 29, of Tewksbury, Mass., was processed on five outstanding warrants and one count of receiving stolen property

Salem Police detectives are asking for the public’s assistance to help identify the suspects involved in the pepper spraying incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective John O’Donnell at 890-2381.

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