Chaos erupts in Colorado Walmart after suspected shoplifter deploys bear spray

The incident closed the store to the public for hours on Sunday.

December 6, 2021, 12:16 PM

Chaos erupted at a Walmart in Colorado on Sunday after a suspected shoplifter deployed bear spray at workers, authorities said.

Emergency response dispatchers began receiving multiple calls reporting that bear spray had been deployed at a Walmart in Greeley, Colorado, at around 1:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, according to the Greeley Police Department. Greeley is about an hour north of Denver.

Due to the chaos as customers fled from the spray, some callers reported there was possibly an active shooter situation, Greeley police said. When police arrived at the retailer, however, they determined there was no guns or active shooter involved.

Police said store associates attempted to stop a 29-year-old man for allegedly shoplifting when a struggle ensued and the man deployed bear spray at three employees. When a fourth employee attempted to intervene, he was "struck in the head by the bear spray, causing the can to rupture and contaminate the store," the Greeley Police Department said in a news release.

PHOTO: A shopping cart sits outside a Walmart store in Amsterdam, N.Y., May 15, 2020.
A shopping cart sits outside a Walmart store in Amsterdam, N.Y., May 15, 2020.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The store associate who was struck in the head was 70 years old, police said.

The shoplifting suspect reportedly fled the scene and went to a nearby store to wash his face after the bear spray exposure. Bear spray can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs when used on humans.

The Walmart was closed to the public for a few hours during the saga, and the Greeley Fire Department and EMS treated the employees as well as several customers who had inhaled some of the spray.

The suspect was eventually located after the vehicle he fled in was spotted at a trailer, and he surrendered to police at the residence at around 9:20 p.m. local time. He was transported to the hospital for a medical evaluation and then to the Weld County Jail.

Police say he will be charged with third-degree assault on an at-risk elder, aggravated robbery, third-degree assault and theft.