Caught on video: Grocery store security guards grapple with robbery suspect

Security guards outside the Roth's Fresh Market grocery store in West Salem grapple with a robbery suspect on Feb. 14. (Image courtesy Alex Groom).

A Salem teenager captured wild video of two grocery store security guards in action. Police said they were detaining a robbery suspect.

"It like caught me off guard," Alex Groom, 15, who shot the video with a cell phone, told KATU Tuesday. "I wasn't expecting to walk out of the library and see three guys fighting."

Officers said the suspect had drug paraphernalia and resisted the guards.

Groom said he was leaving the West Salem public library with his grandfather on Valentine's Day when it happened.

"I saw a guy taking ice cream from Roth's," Groom explained, while standing where the incident happened behind the grocery store. "Two guys were trying to tell the guy to put it back and he wasn't putting it back. The guy was trying to fight them, I guess, in a way. And the guys were telling him he wasn't going to fight them and stuff. And then right over there I just saw them like tackle each other and then the guy with the ice cream was like getting tackled down. ... They had to like force the ice cream out of his hand and then the guy finally gave up and then the police came and then they arrested him."

One of the Roth's Fresh Market grocery store security guards told a KATU reporter they're both licensed by the state.

He said before the altercation they repeatedly asked the suspect, who police identify as 27-year-old Donnavin Whitaker, to return the ice cream. But the guard, who asked not to be named publicly, said Whitaker immediately cursed at them and eventually swung at them before they physically detained him.

Officers said Whitaker had a glass pipe with traces of meth on him.

Lt. Treven Upkes, a spokesman for the Salem Police Department, said most civilians should not try to detain suspects on their own.

"If your job is something in loss prevention, then follow your company's rules," Upkes said. "But as a general rule for general citizens, be a good witness. Give us a call immediately. ... You never know what somebody has, how they're going to act, if they're going to be armed. So if you're going to take action yourself, that's a really dangerous and precarious situation."

Police said Whitaker was not armed. He's charged with third-degree robbery.

The security guard believes the ice cream was Häagen-Dazs cookies and cream.

"Some of that ice cream is pretty good, especially on Valentine's Day," said Upkes.

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