The incident comes just five days after a shoplifter was sentenced to 35 years in prison for chopping off part of the left ear of a security guard at the same Fred Meyer on Dec. 11. The victim in that attack, David Morrison, who is the security department’s manager, has not returned to work full time and was not present during Monday’s confrontation, Longview officer Ryan Blonien said.
Blonien said the suspect in Monday’s confrontation turned and waved a two-foot-long sword when a store security employee confronted him at around 12:30 p.m. The employee wasn’t injured, and the suspect fled.
Blonien said police were still searching Monday afternoon for the suspect, who is white and wore a black hat, a black leather jacket and jeans. No other description was available shortly after the incident, Blonien said. Police did not identify the security guard involved or say what the suspect was attempting to steal.
A Longview police spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking more details.
Monday’s confrontation bore a chilling similarity to the December attack, in which Adrian Kramer was wheeling a shopping cart of stolen merchandise from the store when he suddenly turned and swung an hatchet at Morrison, who was closing in to confront him. Doctors were unable to attach Morrison’s ear.
In an interview following Kramer’s trial, Morrison said the Longview store is plagued by shoplifters and that, in this area, the problem is rivaled only by Fred Meyer stores in urban Portland.
Fred Meyer’s loss-prevention specialists, who are tasked with spotting and stopping shoplifters, are governed by the store’s hands-off policy, which means they can’t grab or otherwise physically restrain suspected shoplifters, Morrison said. He said stopping shoplifters has become increasingly dangerous and that the policy needs to be revised to allow security staff to more aggressively confront particularly brazen shoplifters.
On Monday, Blonien, who responded to the December hatchet attack and testified in Kramer’s trial, found himself once again in the store’s parking lot. Part of the problem, he said, is that the store is near a few high-crime neighborhoods that cause “big problems.”
“The people who are committing the crimes are willing to take more risks,” he said.
Fred Meyer spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said Monday that she knew few details about the samurai confrontation.
“I don’t know what happened inside the store that precipitated this,” she said.
Merrill said the samurai and hatchet incidents do not point to a dangerous pattern at the Longview store. Monday’s dust-up, she said, was simply a matter of bad timing because it came so soon after Kramer’s trial.
“The ear incident was extraordinary,” Merrill said, adding that Monday’s samurai standoff “is a little bit more on par with a day in the life of a loss prevention employee.”