SEATTLE - There has been a lot of talk from elected leaders about finding new ways to curb crime and jail repeat offenders.
As this debate plays out, one Seattle store manager has had to resort to increasingly drastic measures to keep his business and customers safe – particularly from a man he says has been terrorizing his store for three years, and has the video to prove it.
It was only after FOX 13 News published this story with store manager Sameer Shafi that things improved. Shafi runs the Shell Mini-Mart at 130th Street and Lake City Way, and when we spoke with him on June 2, he shared surveillance video detailing several confrontations with the alleged return harasser.
After sharing Shafi's story, a FOX 13 viewer reached out to Shafi and said to give him a call if the man came around again. He said the man returned this week, so he went down and followed him until police arrived and arrested. You can watch his video of the ordeal below.
"Right now, I’m telling him he's not allowed in here," said Sameer Shafi, describing the surveillance video taken on the evening of June 1.
Shafi said he knows the suspect well—but not enough to know his name.
"He knows that my door has an auto-lock from behind the counter, and he tries to wedge something inside the door to prevent me from locking him inside," he said.
The intent of that lock is to hold him until police arrive. Shafi said it’s the same man that has stolen from his store many times over the last three years, which is why he knows about the automatic door lock.
"One time he used a knife between the doors to hold them open," he said.
The video shows the two of them tussling over a lighter the man tried to steal. Shafi runs behind the count to grab a can of bear spray. The man has a black aerosol can, and the two exchange blasts of spray at each other.
"I’m not the one who sprays first, he's the one who sprays me with what he had in his hand," said Shafi.
He is seen chasing the man outside; customers at the gas pump see the spray bottle and get back into their cars.
"Most of the time the customer, when they see something happening they just leave, so I’m losing business, too," Shafi said.
The video shows the man come back two hours later, swinging a half-gallon jug of milk. Shafi bear sprays him again. This time, the man gathers some rocks and begins throwing them at the store windows, breaking two of them.
"He throws a rock aimed at me as I’m behind the counter" Shafi explained. "It breaks the window and almost hits a customer in the head."
The video shows the rock coming through the window, striking a four pack of Red Bull on a high counter before hitting the ground.
"The Red Bull four pack saved her," said Shafi. "I always chase him away, and he keeps coming back."
"I’m fed up; plus, I’m concerned about the safety of my customers—it’s my first priority," said Shafi.
He said he’s repeatedly called the police on the same man, as well as others who steal from his convenience store.
"Most of the time they don’t show up, and if they do, it’s not in minutes, it’s in hours" he said.
A spokesperson for Seattle Police said officers arrived within 15 minutes of the store's 911 call, and they are still looking for the suspect. We asked SPD if it could verify Shafi’s claims of multiple 911 call in previous incidents where no officer showed up.
The SPD spokesperson said they could only verify call response if they were given specific case numbers. Shafi said no calls resulted in case numbers.
He has decided to take matters into his own hands and will not rely on police.
"I’ll keep chasing him," he said. "I’m frustrated and my safety is an issue right now, if he comes back with something else."