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Police chief defends charging store clerk accused of beating robbery suspect with bat

Click to play video: 'Peterborough police chief defends charging store clerk accused of beating robbery suspect with bat'
Peterborough police chief defends charging store clerk accused of beating robbery suspect with bat
WATCH: Peterborough Police Service Chief Stuart Betts speaks about public reaction to the Jan. 5 incident in which a robbery suspect allegedly first struck a clerk with a baseball bat inside the store. But then the clerk obtained the bat, and followed the suspect outside the store and allegedly struck him multiple times, seriously injuring the suspect – Jan 10, 2024

The chief of police in Peterborough, Ont., says to let the evidence in court speak for itself in relation to both a convenience store clerk and a suspect being charged in a violent robbery attempt last week.

Social media reaction has poured in since police on Tuesday reported on the dual charges stemming from an incident on Jan. 5 in which a suspect allegedly struck a store clerk with a baseball bat and demanded money.

However, police report the 22-year-old clerk was able to gain possession of the bat and followed the suspect outside the store. He then allegedly struck the robbery suspect several times with the bat.

The 37-year-old robbery suspect was sent to a Toronto hospital with head injuries. He was charged with robbery, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon.

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The clerk was charged with aggravated assault.

Peterborough Police Service Chief Stuart Betts says various comments on social media — including questioning the clerk’s charge — are “unfair to the men and women of my organization.”

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“They are doing great work in our community,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday evening. “Yes, this case is unusual, but in a world where security cameras are everywhere, do you really think we would not have seized and reviewed the footage as part of the investigation and prior to laying charges?”

Betts refuted some critics who say the charge against the clerk is connected to politics or race or that victims in crime are being penalized.

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“This is not about politics — politics have nothing to do with the facts. This is not about race — as some have suggested,” he wrote. “This is not about the perception that criminals go free while victims of crime are penalized — this is about the law.”

Betts says he cannot speak to the particulars of the case since it is now before the court. The clerk, who was held in custody following his arrest, made his first appearance on Jan. 6.

“If you have a desire to know what has led to the charges, follow the case in court,” he said. “Allow the facts of the case to guide your commentary and opinion, not your reaction to a headline.

“I encourage you to stop and think about things before determining what you think has happened, or that an injustice has taken place, because I’m quite confident that not one person who has made a comment about this case has seen the video or has access to the actual facts.”

Betts, who marked his one-year anniversary in the role on Tuesday, says he is “vocal about public safety, accountability and transparency” in order to maintain public trust and confidence.

“I have every confidence in my staff,” he said. “You may not like the police. You may not like my Police Organization in particular. I can’t change or comment on what you believe may or may not have been done in the past — I wasn’t a part of the past, I am the present.”

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In an interview with Global News on Wednesday, Betts again reiterated that the incident crossed the line of self-defence.

“There’s no lawful justification for excessive use of force,” he said. “In this case, the force that has resulted in serious injuries to this individual.”

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