Al Messier said he reacted without thinking when he chased down a thief at a Penticton bank Tuesday. Photo courtesy Al Messier

Summerland man chases down thief

A Summerland man is the hero of the hour after running down a thief in Penticton Tuesday afternoon.

Al Messier said he was waiting in line at the bank yesterday when another man snatched a woman’s money out of her hands as the teller passed it to her, and ran out of the bank at a Toronto Dominion Branch in Power Centre.

It all happened so quickly, Messier said, that by the time the lady cried out and he realized what was happening, the thief was racing across the parking lot.

Messier said he chased after the thief without thinking.

“I’d do it again. You don’t think, you just act,” said Messier, adding that he tried to scare the thief as he chased him.

“I’m not a runner, I am going to peter out real quick. That’s when I started screaming at him, stop and I won’t hurt you,” said Messier. “He jumped over the bushes at the end of the parking lot and I was thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’”

In a Facebook post, Messier jokes that the thief must have been “scared seeing this ugly dirty mug coming at him.”

The thief eventually stopped running and handed Messier the stack of $100 bills.

Messier encouraged the thief to do the right thing and turn yourself in.

“He said no and kept walking away,” said Messier in his post, who walked back to the woman, who was still in the parking lot. He said he was showered with hugs as he gave her back the money.

“I am filthy from working all day, she was just hugging me like crazy, wouldn’t let me go,” said Messier. “She was so overwhelmed. She tried giving me $100, but I said no, I don’t want your money.

“It felt good to make her feel so happy.”

Messier said he ended up feeling sorry for the thief once he stopped running.

“When he turned around, that’s when I felt kind of sorry for the guy. He was probably hungry. I felt bad for him. My anger went to instantly feeling sorry for the dude.”

Corporal Don Wrigglesworth said a suspect was arrested, but when the RCMP contacted the victim for a statement so he could be charged, she declined.

“She was just happy to have her money back,” said Wrigglesworth. But without that statement, he said the RCMP can’t bring charges even though the suspect is well-known to the police.

Witnesses, including the bank video, are part of the case, he said, but without the victim’s statement that it was actually a theft, they can’t proceed.

Wrigglesworth praised Messier and the other bystanders for being willing to get involved.

“It is awesome to see citizens step up and do the right thing,” said Wrigglesworth.