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Forceful citizen’s arrest shocks Surdyk’s shoppers

Supervisors of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis forcefully took down a suspected shoplifter in front of disbelieving customers on March 7.

Supervisors of Surdyk's Liquor and Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis forcefully took down a suspected shoplifter in front of disbelieving customers on March 7. Star Tribune

Staff of Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop in northeast Minneapolis fought and forcibly handcuffed a young woman suspected of shoplifting on Saturday.

Customers who witnessed it took their anger to Yelp, Google reviews, and other social media, describing two large men wrestling the woman to the floor while other employees “laughed it off.”

Onlookers say when they complained to staff about the use of force and demanded an explanation of the store's policies, employees said they were trespassing and told them to leave the store.

“If the woman committed a crime, she should be held responsible, no question. But whether or not the woman attempted to steal a product, this company policy of physically restraining a person, using handcuffs, is unproportionally forceful and inappropriate,” shopper John Weirick wrote in a Yelp review.

“The employees who physically restrained the woman... were unapologetic and disrespectful toward customers who asked about what happened and about company policy.”

Weirick added he and "more than ten" other people left the store, and that he opted not to buy anything.

According to a police report of the incident, a Surdyk's staff member called in a report of three people attempting to steal liquor. Two fled, and one woman was detained after allegedly hitting the caller on the head. The caller refused emergency medical services, according to the report.

On Yelp, Weirick wrote cops escorted the woman outside the store, talked to her, and released her. 

Minnesota law says a private person can legally arrest – including restrain – another if they witness or know they’ve committed a crime. There’s a whole set of laws about how businesses are allowed to detain suspected shoplifters, and guidelines for when regular people are allowed to use force on each other.

Just because businesses can legally detain people with force, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman Garrett Parten says that doesn’t mean it’s smart to try.

“That person making the arrest, if it’s deemed unreasonable, or if the force is unreasonable, they’re liable for civil and criminal charges," Parten says.

Surdyk’s owner Melissa Surdyk confirmed store supervisors detained a woman Saturday and waited for police to arrive.

“Assault does not happen in our store, especially to this degree, ever, that I’ve been involved with. And it was a reaction of protecting other customers and staff.”

Surdyk said staff would be re-trained on hospitality and customer service, but did not answer whether the employees will receive any new direction on use of force.

"This instance is being treated seriously, and it’s not just being overlooked. The situation is used in training and making sure that things like this do not happen in the future because it’s all about the experience people have in store. And we want everybody to have a positive experience."