A man wielding a knife at the Thursday night street market was arrested by Nanaimo RCMP after he was tackled by a market-goer.
Gregory Long and his wife had just arrived at the downtown night market Thursday when they came upon a man holding a knife to his chin and uttering obscenities.
“We were just walking in … and there was this real [messed] up guy and he had a knife to his throat and he’s freaking out these guys at a booth that are trying to sell [stuff],” Long said.
Long called 911 and stayed on the phone with the operator while he and his wife followed the man who was moving off through the crowd. Long, knowing the man was armed, was trying to keep him in sight. The man had put the knife in his pocket, but then started to approach Long.
“He did a roundhouse kick and knocked a planter – they have those four-foot planters on the sidewalks – and he knocked that out,” Long said.
When the man headed toward another vendor booth Long positioned himself in front of the man and told him the police were on their way.
“I said, ‘Just stand there. You’re not going anywhere…’” said Long, who used to be a boxer. “I said, ‘if you put your hands in your pockets I’m going to knock you out’ … I was just waiting for the cops. I wasn’t doing anything stupid. If he went for his pocket I was going to smoke him.”
Once a security guard intervened, the suspect threw his knife in a vendor’s basket and started running down the street. Long gave chase and eventually tackled the suspect. Police arrived and put both men in handcuffs until witnesses explained what had happened and Long was released. He was treated by paramedics at the scene for a broken thumb sustained when he fell during the chase.
Nanaimo RCMP Staff Sgt. John Blaase confirmed that one man was arrested, held in custody overnight and was expected to make a court appearance today, June 28.
“I think there was a little bit of self-medication involved…” Blaase said. “I guess it got a little bit of excitement down there, but the arrest itself was a non-event … When there’s the possibility of mental health issues and self-medication concerns, we have to take those into consideration, obviously, for public safety.”
Kim Smythe, CEO of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, which organizes the event, said the night market is safe, with many security measures both visible and “behind the scenes.”
“Thousands of people come down, unfortunately last night a few people witnessed something that went wrong,” he said.
Smythe said the police response was “fabulous,” with numerous officers immediately on scene. He said the chamber will meet with RCMP and city staff on Tuesday “to go over the incident and to talk about how we can further improve the situation.”