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‘I have a knife’: Man charged with threatening Vancouver pizza shop worker

Click to play video: 'Vancouver store employee threatened with knife over pizza' Vancouver store employee threatened with knife over pizza
A female employee of a downtown Vancouver pizza shop was threatened with a knife, when she refused a man's demand for a free pizza. Kristen Robinson reports. – Jul 24, 2022

A Vancouver man is facing charges after a pizza shop employee was allegedly threatened while trying to do the right thing at her job.

The incident happened at Fresh Slice on West Pender Street in downtown Vancouver.

The store’s motto is “We love our guests.” Kids get a free balloon and staff sometimes offer a free pizza slice to the city’s homeless.

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But on Friday night, that allegedly wasn’t enough for one customer — who allegedly demanded he be given an entire pizza.

The counter server, who Global News is not identifying for safety reasons, said the situation quickly turned aggressive.

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“If you do not bring for the pizza, I kill you. I have a knife, I kill you,” she said he told her.

“I’m very scared this time, I’m very scared.”

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Store manager Anpalagan Namasivayam said fortunately the employee was quickly able to call for help.

“That guy came and then showed the knife and [said] I need the whole pizza,” he said.

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“She said, ‘No. You want, I give you a slice.’ He said, ‘No, I need the whole pizza,’ and then he’s behind the door and then she said ‘OK, call the police.’”

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Downtown Safety Ambassadors responded and police were called. The suspect fled with an entire pie, according to Namasivayam, but was quickly arrested nearby.

Vancouver police are applauding the victim for reporting the incident, and say they are hearing similar stories from numerous small businesses in the downtown core.

“Sometimes it’s giving people a handout here or there, they get to know a lot of the people in their neighbourhood,” said Sgt. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department.

“When an incident like this happens, it really betrays the trust that they’ve built up with people in the neighbourhood and it’s extremely traumatizing for them.”

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Juan Serna, 31, has been charged with uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, and theft under $5,000.

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Serna, who is due to appear in Downtown Community Court Tuesday, is also accused of assault with a weapon and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose in connection with what police allege was a similar incident on June 19 a few blocks away.

The owner of Pizza 2001, which is in the same block, said he gave out free slices to those in need for years, but ended the practice about a decade ago because it got to be too much, with some people only wanting free “oven fresh” pizza.

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“This is the first time I’m hearing that somebody was threatened with a knife,” area employee Dominik Novak said.

“I think it’s terrible to be honest.”

Novak said he generally feels safe in the daytime although he witnessed a purse snatching in broad daylight last Wednesday in front of Browns Crafthouse.

“I see one lady screaming here without her purse and look on the left and I see one guy running behind the block,” recalled Novak.

“I didn’t see the guy much but I just saw how he ran behind the block and was holding the purse.”

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Namasivayam said he is used to people taking advantage of Fresh Slice’s goodwill.

“Sometimes they get a brownie, sometimes they grab the tip jar,” Namasivayam said.

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