A security guard is facing two charges after police say he pepper-sprayed a customer outside an Edmonton supermarket and the victim, who is Indigenous, believes he was racially profiled.
Mark Callihoo was at the No Frills at Calgary Trail and 80 Avenue Tuesday night and purchased nearly $100 worth of groceries.
The 56-year-old was about to put groceries inside a waiting taxi when he was approached by a security guard, who does not work for the supermarket but for a private company contracted by the shopping plaza.
“He says, ‘You’re not going nowhere. You stole these. You didn’t pay for none of these groceries,’” Callihoo said.
The groceries were in yellow bags marked with the No Frills logo and Callihoo offered to show him his receipt.
“That’s when I got pepper sprayed. All I remember is seeing him reach in and grab a little bottle. Next thing you know, I got it in my left eye and up my left nostril,” Callihoo said.
“We ended up going back in the store. I went to the teller. I said, ‘Could you please tell this… idiot I paid for these?’ She did and he more or less just turned around and walked out.”
Callihoo said he is still feeling the effects of the pepper spray.
Callihoo said he thinks he was targeted because he is Indigenous.
“I didn’t see him approach anybody else coming out of the store. What gives him the right to say I stole the groceries?” he said.
Witness Gail Riddle, who was inside the supermarket when Callihoo and the guard re-entered, is upset with what she saw.
“I thought, in this time of reconciliation, that people would be kinder,” she said.
“I think, being an Indigenous person, we do get followed by security guard. We do get harassed,” Riddle said.
“When you look at a security guard, you think, ‘Oh that’s someone who’s supposed to protect you or protect.’ But they seem to be someone you are harassed by.”
Witness Rayna Gopaul, who was in the checkout line during the incident, said she is upset to know this happened in her community.
“I’m First Nations myself so I feel like our people have the right to be able to get groceries without having violence perpetrated against them,” she said.
“It’s textbook racial profiling for sure. There’s no other reason for them to assume he was stealing for any other reason except for the fact he was First Nations.”
Loblaws, the parent company of No Frills, sent the following statement to Global News:
“This security guard…was not acting on our behalf. His behaviour toward one of our customers is unacceptable.”
The guard, who has not been named by police, is facing charges of assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Calls and emails to the security company were not returned.