Rotorua liquor store staff and a customer turn the tables on would-be thieves

Staff armed themselves and attacked a Rotorua liquor store. Video / Provided

Liquor store staff armed with a hockey stick turned the tables on four would-be thieves who allegedly burst in wielding a metal tool, punched a man and attempted to steal liquor and cash .

A bottle of liquor was also thrown into the scuffle at the Kawaha Point Dairy and Liquor Center in Rotorua on Sunday evening.

The attackers were forced to drop their boxes and flee, but a regular customer outside the store grabbed one of them and held him until police arrived.

Police are tracking the other three alleged attackers looking for people who were recently injured.

Store owner Harshminder Singh, who was not working at the time of the incident, said the alleged perpetrators entered the store around 7:05 p.m. He claimed one of them smashed a gun on top of a computer screen on the counter. He said the weapon was a metal tool used to change a tire.

Harshminder Singh, owner of the Kawaha Point Dairy and Liquor Center store.  Photo/Andrew Warner
Harshminder Singh, owner of the Kawaha Point Dairy and Liquor Center store. Photo/Andrew Warner

At the time, a former employee friend of the two service staff sat behind the counter waiting for them to finish work.

Singh claimed one of the four went behind the counter, ‘kicked’ the man in the head and tried to steal money from the till.

Meanwhile, the other three allegedly grabbed boxes of alcohol and tried to get out of the store.

A staff member quickly rushed in, armed with a hockey stick. He ran over one of the offenders with the stick and there was a fight in the store, which caused a liquor stand to topple over and smash.

The former employee threw a full bottle of alcohol at the suspected thieves as they fled, after dropping the boxes.

Singh said he was grateful for the actions of the regular customer, whose name he did not know, who snatched the keys to the getaway car and grabbed one of the offenders, holding him tightly by the wrists until the arrival of the police.

A worker from the nearby dairy also came to help.

Neither the staff members nor the ex-worker were injured in the melee.

Singh said he has owned the store since 2015. It is a dual business comprising a liquor store and a dairy in separate stores side by side.

Kawaha Point Dairy after being raided in February.  Photo / Ben Fraser
Kawaha Point Dairy after being raided in February. Photo / Ben Fraser

He said it had been great for the first six years, but this year they had already been hit twice – the incident on Sunday and a ram raid in February where the store front was smashed and items were stolen .

Singh said someone rushes into the store and walks away with a stolen can of liquor every two to three weeks now.

He said that while he and his team trusted their regular customers, they still felt nervous about people they didn’t know.

“It makes you nervous and maybe your staff don’t want to work here… It was good business when I started in 2015 but now day by day it’s getting worse.”

Detective Sergeant Tony Colby said police were still in the early stages of their investigation and were still looking for the other three offenders.

Colby said it was possible some of the other offenders were injured, including in the face, during the robbery and he asked people who knew anyone with fresh injuries to contact police.

Anyone with information can contact the police on the 105 telephone service or online at www.police.govt.nz/use-105.