Police search neighborhood after suspected thief assaults police officer at Target store

PORT RICHMOND - August 19, 2013

Police told Action News they believed the suspect was on foot somewhere in area of the 2200 block of East Huntingdon Street.

The minivan the suspect was driving earlier was seen parked on the street.

The assault happened after 5:00 p.m., during an all-out fight in the front door of the store, after two security guards and a Philadelphia police officer tried to take down a suspected thief.

Police say the man got the upper hand and Maced the uniformed officer and the guards inside the store on Castor Avenue.

"That's scary to hear something like that happening in the store," said George Pharo of Northeast Philadelphia. "You know what? I mean it could happen to anybody."

Investigators say it all started around 5:00 p.m. when the suspect returned a $100 air conditioning unit for cash.

The problem is, the store says he never paid for it and simply grabbed the AC unit off the shelf.

When security and police officer, who was working an overtime detail, tried to stop him, a struggle broke out.

Cameras captured it all, but customers didn't see or hear much.

"The store was really quiet," Mari Martinez of Kensington told Action News. "Like, the associates there, everyone was calm. No nothing, everything was just, like, calm."

Police say they've got a detailed description of the suspect who got away in a purple minivan.

He's white or Hispanic, 6'2, bald, full beard, a sleeve tattoo on his right arm and tattoos on his left arm.

He was wearing a white or blue polo shirt and long blue jean shorts.

"We have a unique description of the person, a unique description of the vehicle," said Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small. "So if anyone has any information, they can contact East Detectives."

The 25th District police officer, who was sprayed right in the eyes with that Mace, was taken to Episcopal Hospital, where he was cleaned up and checked out.

"Crazy stuff," said Bill Stott of Port Richmond. "With all the assaults on the officers, it's getting out of hand, I think."

This is the second time in less than a week an officer from the 25th has been injured. Last Tuesday, Officer Ed Davies was shot in a corner store.

There's no word if or when East Detectives will release that Target surveillance video.

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