Coon Rapids hardware store shoplifting escalates into "a very dangerous felony"

Categories: Crime
RandyClark_Ace.jpg
Anoka County | Todd Spanjers
Randy Clark Jr., left, and the Ace Hardware on Foley Blvd. he tried to shoplift from.
When Randy Clark Jr. walked into an Ace Hardware in Coon Rapids on Tuesday morning and slipped a few brass plumbing fittings under his shirt, it should have been a routine shoplifting.

Instead, by the time police cornered 25-year-old Clark, he had slashed one of the store's employees with a box cutter, threatened to kill the employee and the store owner, and been chased by the owner into a wooded area down the road. Even after Coon Rapids Police, Blaine Police, and state troopers had him surrounded, Clark resisted arrest, and had to be tasered.

"The whole thing made a misdemeanor theft into a very dangerous felony," says John Hattstrom, captain of the Coon Rapids investigations unit. "It seems unnecessary for a shoplifting to go this awry."

Todd Spanjers has owned the Ace on Foley Blvd. for nearly 23 years and dealt with "hundreds" of shopliftings but never, he says, anything like this one. "This got out of control pretty quick."

On Tuesday morning, Spanjers was in the back of his store working on a window screen with another employee, when the two employees on the sales floor spotted Clark, who was with a woman, shoplifting. The employees and Spanjers then rushed to the front of the store, and when Clark saw them, he started running and got into his car.

Spanjers says one of the employees stood in front of the car and put his hands on the hood, while Spanjers reached in and turned the ignition off. But he got distracted by Clark's accomplice, and when he turned back, Clark was fighting with an employee for control of the keys.

At that point, Clark pulled a box cutter and reportedly told the employee, "I'm going to kill you." He slashed out at the employee, who shielded himself with his forearms and later received eight stitches, according to Spanjers.

Meanwhile, the girl and Clark had taken off on foot. The girl stopped after almost getting hit by a truck, but Spanjers started following Clark. "I'm in pretty good shape, and he wasn't," Spanjers says. While he was running, Spanjers dialed 911.

When he was about 50 yards behind him, Clark turned around and shouted, "I'm going to kill you," Spanjers recalls. Clark threw a few of the brass plumbing fittings he had just stolen, and ran onto a wooded trail. Spanjers remembers Clark saying something like, "I dare you to chase me in here," a taunt that made him finally relent and wait for police. Clark was cornered, and Spanjers could hear sirens.

"Many" police arrived to bring Clark in, says Capt. Hattstrom. "He wouldn't surrender when he was surrounded, so he was tasered." The officer on the scene thought Clark appeared to be "under the influence of some kind of controlled substance," Hattstrom reports.

Clark later told police that he owed someone several hundred dollars, and "had to" steal from the store to pay the person by 4 p.m., or he would be killed. He was charged with two counts of aggravated robbery in the first degree, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years, and one count of simple robbery.

Court records show that Clark has a lengthy criminal record, including aiding home burglary, driving without a valid license, check forgery, and possession of a controlled substance.

Spanjers estimates that the brass plumbing fittings that started all this are worth about $30.

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18 comments
Eric Shawn Smith
Eric Shawn Smith

People would be surprised at what a simple throat chop, fingers to the eyes or sack grab and twist will do.

Alan Musielewicz
Alan Musielewicz

I have already said, they rob me at work fine. They steal something, fine I will call the police. If I am going to be killed, it will either have to happen at work so my kids get the insurance money, or shot dead at 92 by a 21 year old jealous husband. Nothing else will do.

Alan Musielewicz
Alan Musielewicz

I have seen it many times. Man busted for dope. Cops take dope. Dealers say I don't care you owe me the money. Criminal either deals more dope or steals to pay off dealer.

louse
louse

Don't need a "stand your ground" law in this case. The box cutter would more than qualify as a "deadly weapon," not to mention the employee was in fact injured by it. This would be a justifiable use of deadly force any way you, uh, slice it (pardon the pun).

anon
anon

You know, if we had Stand Your Ground...we could shoot people for attacking Ace Hardware Store employees with a box cutter.

Marcus
Marcus

To the employees that "saved the day"... you are one bag of chips away from a Neanderthal. I find it so bizarre that in cases like this, the employee somehow takes it personally. 

 

Give up your hardware store career you moron and become a mall cop!  All signs point to yes!

 

Thomas Michael
Thomas Michael

Exactly. It's not worth it. You should never leave the store.

Bob Alberti
Bob Alberti

Do not try to apprehend shoplifters guys, you're not being paid enough to take such risks.

A1batross
A1batross

"Spanjers says one of the employees stood in front of the car and put his hands on the hood, while Spanjers reached in and turned the ignition off."And here is where, unfortunately, the employees crossed the line. (It would not surprise me if they got fired although I hope not.) IT'S NOT WORTH IT GUYS! I know you hate shoplifters, but I suspect corporate counsel does NOT want you risking your health and safety for a bunch of plumbing fittings!Write down his license number, snap his pic with your cell phone, but HANDS OFF and STAY SAFE. You're not being paid enough to take these risks.

mark.gisleson
mark.gisleson

 @louse Yet somehow by the grace of GOD ALMIGHTY these employees managed to corner and hold this guy until the cops got there and they did so without a gun. Which to me seems like a billion times more manly than pulling a gun out and shooting the jerk with a boxcutter.

 

Eight stitches vs. a human life. I think Spanjers is probably pretty damned proud of his employees right now, and justifiably so. Shooting someone down in your parking lot for shoplifting is not really good for business.

BFWB
BFWB

 @anon No no no, Clark was an armed white man. Stand Your Ground is exclusively so white guys don't need a reason for shooting unarmed minorities.

Frank
Frank

 @A1batross Corporate counsel?  I own a hardware store and the only thing corporate about it is the franchise fee I pay Ace.  There is no corporate counsel other than my half-wit brother in law who gives me legal advice for free at Sunday dinner.

 

These asshats are not stealing from Ace corporation, they are stealing from small business owners, most of whom, work 50-60 hours per week and are sick and tired of being stolen from.  It's hard enough competing against Lowes, Home Depot and Menards.

A1batross
A1batross

 @Frank  @A1batross I have no doubt you're correct - I assumed that Ace franchises must operate under some central contract including how employees respond to incidents, but certainly that was a guess. Replace "corporate counsel" with "whoever runs your store."

Frank
Frank

 @WatusiJenkins In fact I pay my taxes--and a lot of them.  On the other hand, I benefit from them.  My customers and suppliers use roads to come to my store which are maintained by the government, I am protected against serious crime by the police and I am protected from fire by the fire department.  I had a customer have a seizure and the paramedics were at my store in about two minutes.  I didn't build my business alone--I actually  was able to get a low interest loan from the small business administration, which allowed me to hire two part time employees, so I created jobs in the community.  The fact that my two part-time employees, both young men of color, by the way, can read and do math is thanks to the teachers they had, paid for by taxpayers.  The fact that one is going to college and will, I have no doubt, open his own business, is because tax payers have supported the U and created a program for affordable student loans.  The fact that I learned how to start a business was due to college, which I earned through the GI bill after serving in the army for 20 years, at the expense of taxpayers.

 

So please don't presume that I am not grateful to pay the taxes that I owe.

WatusiJenkins
WatusiJenkins

 @Frank You must be one of those greedy Republican business owners who don't pay their fair share of taxes.  :)

Frank
Frank

 @A1batross  @Frank Just to be clear, I tell my employees not to confront shoplifters, though I know that shoplifters take roughly $25,000 out of my pocket annually. But you should know that the cops don't investigate a shoplifting under $500.  They also don't come in any time for a shoplifting in progress call.  Sadly, they always manage to come quickly for fight calls.

 

Two years ago, I got so fed up with a guy who had stolen from me for the third time in a week (a week, incidentally, when I could barely meet payroll from my two part time employees) that I confronted him.  He swung a broom at me.  I swung an 18", 4 pound adjustable wrench at him. I knocked him out.  I was lucky not to get charged; he sued--my insurance company defended me ferociously and we prevailed.  But my insurance premiums have doubled. They told me if I ever confront a shoplifter like that again they will drop me. They are right, I was wrong--it was just property, I guess. 

 

So, instead, I make about 40 percent of the income I otherwise would earn while others get away with stealing. i thought opening a hardware store in an area that didn't have one would be a nice thing for the city, and I thought I'd make an ok living. My hourly wage works out to be about $15. I'm better off than some of my hard working customers, but please understand my frustration when my daughter went to camp for one week this summer, not two like her friends, because people steal from me.

 

To those customers that still support my local store, thank you.

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