Jason Ro has worked at Ro’s General Store on Cannifton Road North in Belleville since 1988.
On Oct. 16, 2019, just before 7 p.m. his life changed in an instant when a man entered the store and attempted to rob him.
“He came in and was saying some strange things and he started spraying pepper spray — I learned later it was bear spray,” Ro told Global News.
Ro says the intentions of the man who had his face covered with a bandanna, were unclear, but he knew they weren’t good.
He says instinct took over and he grabbed a golf club from behind the counter and chased the man from the store.
Outside, a second man was waiting, and it was there, Ro says, that things turned violent.
“Something happened really fast — they were beating me and stabbing me and I was laying on the road,” Ro said.
Ro was stabbed eight times before the assailants were chased off by passersby.
“I saw myself lying down on the ground bleeding … I thought I was dead. But somehow, you know, I came back to life,” the store owner said through long pauses.
Ro was rushed to Kingston General Hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries.
One to repair organ damage, another to repair his crushed eye, and a third to help with nerve damage in his forearm as a result of a stab wound.
Even so, Ro says he may never regain vision in his left eye or feeling in his left hand.
The store owner was in hospital for two weeks and says it’s been hard taking time away from the store and work to focus on his recovery.
Ro’s General Store has remained closed since the attack and the store owner estimates the damage done by the bear spray is about $20,000.
Ro says he is working with his insurance company and contracting team to remove all the contaminated ceiling tiles and take inventory of the goods which needed to be thrown away.
The 57-year-old says once the store does reopen, not only will it be a struggle to work around his physical injuries, but his emotional ones as well.
“It’s hard to sleep, when I dream, I dream it” Ro said, referring to the attack.
The only positive thing that has come of it all, Ro says, is the outpouring of support from the community.
He says customers have written him personal cheques and about $17,000 was raised for his family between two GoFundMe campaigns, money he says that will be helpful to get him through this time without any income.
Two 19-year-old men involved in the attack were arrested three days later, on Oct. 19 in Moncton, N.B.
Kyle Arsenault of Belleville, Ont., and Jordan Earle of Moncton were both charged with attempted murder.