Elaine Gallaway, 73, has been praised in her community for her actions. A video of her confronting the man on Saturday morning was shared widely on social media.
“When he pushed me, that was a boiling point,” she told Global News on Monday.
“It was just a coincidence, and because I sort of already knew that he was a shoplifter, I think my gut instinct was, you’re not going to get away with this.”
Gallaway said she was buying dishwashing soap at Walmart on Jan. 29 when she noticed a man with a black coat and hoodie strolling by with a full grocery cart of items. “He was shoving roasts of beef in a backpack,” she alleged.
She told a Walmart staffer what she saw, and the staffer assured her that security would be alerted to the situation and would stop him as he walked out of the store.
“So I went about my business, paid for my groceries, and as I was walking out the door he was trying to run out with a full grocery cart of items,” said Gallaway. “Then he ran into me and I said to him, ‘You coward, show your face to the camera.'”
The interaction was captured on video. In the video, the person shooting it can be heard asking the man if he’s going to pay for the groceries.
The man in the balaclava said “yeah” before trying to leave the store, which is when Gallaway stepped in. She pulled off his balaclava and exclaimed, “I’m fed up with this bull –t! Get out! You just jack up the price for everybody else.”
Eventually, he dashed away without the cart, but with his bicycle and the backpack, allegedly full of the roasts of beef.
Asked if she would do it again, Gallaway said she likely would. She did not, however, recommend that anyone else replicate her actions, as a confrontation could lead to personal injury.
She said she had noted in this case, the alleged shoplifter had one hand on his cart and one hand on the bicycle, so he had no quick access to weapons. She wanted to assist a possible police investigation and said her “old training kicked in.”
“I was a bank teller for 17 years and I have been held up at gunpoint,” she explained.
“I know that the police have said that if they get a clear view of the person then they know who the suspect is that they’re looking for.”
Others in her community have lauded her bravery for holding the man to account.
“It’s kind of surprising to see that in a town like this, but I was pretty impressed with that lady. She took charge there. They should definitely hire her on as security,” said Chris, a Campbell River resident and Walmart shopper.
“She was gutsy,” added another shopper, Terri Antonenko. “I give her a lot of credit for doing what she did.”
Gallaway said she’ll be grateful when all the news interviews are over and she can slip back into her quiet life.