Jon Burnside, Toronto city councillor who made citizens' arrest at Home Depot

Toronto councillor makes daring citizens’ arrest in violent Home Depot confrontation

Toronto City Councillor Jon Burnside helped perform a citizen’s arrest outside the Leaside Home Depot on Wednesday morning after witnessing two men trying to steal items from the retailer.

Burnside, who represents Ward 16 Don Valley East, told NewsTalk 1010’s Jerry Agar that he stopped by the Home Depot near Laird Drive and Eglinton Avenue East shortly before 9 a.m. He said he was minding his own business as he headed toward the doors when he saw two males leaving the premises with a shopping cart full of what appeared to be stolen Dewalt power tools. He noticed the price tags were still on the tools, and the alarms went off as the men left the store.

“Both males were wearing COVID masks, which I found a little bit curious so I yelled at them as they kind of walked by me with haste,” Burnside told Agar. He said he pulled out his phone to start recording the incident. One man ran off, but the other suspect started heading toward Burnside.

“I said, ‘You stole those’ and he [hurled] some expletives,” Burnside said, noting that he also smelled alcohol on the suspect’s breath. The councillor said that he then grabbed the cart. This led to a sort of tug back and forth for the cart before the suspect uttered a death threat.

“It was sort of past the point of no return where I felt I had to…protect myself and make the attempt to make the arrest, which I did,” Burnside, who is a former Toronto police officer, said. He added that there was “a little bit of a confrontation” as Burnside “wrestled” the man, who he described as “wiry” and “tough” to the ground.

“I don’t know what he was on…but he had what felt like superhuman strength. Eventually, I’d say about 10 Home Depot staff came out and kind of just stood and watched,” Burnside said. “…I find it so offensive that people are doing this…9 a.m. in the morning, shopping carts full of probably $2,000 or $3,000 of stolen items, and then they actually turn on me, like I’m the bad guy.”

Two other customers—Rob Hughes and an unnamed off-duty Toronto firefighter—stepped in to help subdue the suspect.

Burnside said that one of his old high school friends who happened to be shopping at the Home Depot at the time of the incident called 911.

Toronto police arrived about 15 minutes later and arrested the suspect, although police don’t have any information about the other suspect who fled the scene.

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