Dozens sickened, one hospitalized, after thieves unleash bear spray at JV Kmart

JURUPA VALLEY — More than two-dozen employees and patrons of a Jurupa Valley Kmart had to be treated for exposure to bear spray after a pair of thieves unleashed the irritant on store employees who tried to stop the duo from stealing merchandise Saturday afternoon, April 20.

According to officials, paramedics treated 25 to 30 people at the store, including one who was taken to a nearby hospital for further treatment due to difficulty breathing.

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Yesterday’s incident unfolded around 3:40 p.m., when store employees spotted suspicious activity from two men. Believing the pair was about to leave the store without paying for their merchandise, employees confronted the pair, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Vasquez later reported to media.

During the ensuing altercation, one of the men pulled out a large canister of bear spray and unleashed the spray inside the store. Bear deterrent is similar to pepper spray only in a much larger can and used to deter bear attacks. However, unlike pepper spray, which has a limited range, bear spray sends a concentrated stream of irritant 25 to 30 feet.

After dispersing the irritant on a crowd of both employees and shoppers, the pair fled the scene. Despite searching for the men, deputies were initially unable to locate them.

Deputies from the Jurupa Valley Sheriff’s Department are still searching for the men and their investigation is ongoing.

SEE RELATED: Q&A: What are California’s laws regarding pepper spray ownership and use?

California laws do not require a license or permit to carry pepper spray; however, the state does regulate the size and/or weight of the defense spray products the average citizen can buy and carry. The legal container size must be equal to or less than 2.5 ounces.

Bear spray is also legal to own in California and the canisters can contain more than 2.5 ounces if the company that makes it registers it with the State as a pesticide. However, other than cases of self-defense, using bear spray on humans is illegal.

For more comprehensive and detailed information on California’s laws pertaining to pepper spray click here.

Anyone with information about this incident or who knows the identity of the pair is encouraged to immediately contact Jurupa Valley PD at (951) 955-2600. Callers can remain anonymous.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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