Forest Park hardware store owner tackles shoplifter

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By JEAN LOTUS

Rich Schauer, proprietor of Schauer's Hardware, 7449 Madison St. in Forest Park, said growing up in a retail store set off his radar when an aggressive panhandler who had been accosting customers across the street, and then in front of the store, Monday around 4 p.m., walked in the front door and - after milling around - went out the back.

"He was in aisle 14 and then 15 and then 16, and he found something easy and quick to grab," said Schauer. "When someone looks behind them three or four times as they walk out the door, your senses go off that this ain't good."

What the man grabbed was three "comfort grip" hose nozzles, which he carried out the back door. Schauer says he followed him, and asked the man, a 51-year-old from Glendale Heights, what he had in his hand. He did not appear intoxicated, Schauer said.

The man had a hose nozzle in his hand behind his leg and a large bulge in the front of his shirt, according to police reports. The man then threw the nozzles to the ground and tried to walk away.

Schauer said he wasn't going to let the man leave and he decided to try to stop him. "I dropped him down like a hammer," he joked. "No, seriously, a little bit of hockey, a little bit of citizen's police academy. I pinched his arms and swept his legs out from under him. We both fell in the alley on the cement."  Schauer jumped on top of the man and held him down until an employee called 911. "Maybe that wasn't the brightest thing to do," he admitted.

The man had been arrested the previous Friday morning in Forest Park at the Dunkin Donuts on Harlem after he allegedly approached female customers in the parking lot demanding both their phone numbers and $10. He had even approached a police officer in full uniform, asking for $9, allegedly for a part for his vehicle that was "broken down in Maywood." Police found a glass crack pipe on his person on Friday and another in his pocket on Monday. He had been released over the weekend.

In fact, police mentioned to Schauer that the same man had been arrested two weeks before in possession of a thermostat that had been lifted from Schauer's.

"That time, I couldn't make it to court. This Thursday I'm going to court and pressing charges, which should get him off the streets and out of the area."

Schauer said shoplifting is a part of retail business. "They always shoplift," he said. "They always will."

"I don't condone chasing and knocking them down. But if everybody keeps their eye open, they'll know it's not tolerated, and if you prosecute, they don't want to go by you."

The man was charged with possession of drug equipment and retail theft. The assistant state's attorney approved upgrading charges to a felony, based on a past robbery conviction in 1994.

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