Two Grand Island teenagers credited with stopping clothing store shoplifter
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – Western Edge employees Tomas Labenz and Wesley Fishler wouldn't have done anything differently if given a second chance.
It started out as a usual busy day at the Western Edge clothing store in Grand Island, the day after Black Friday. What Tomas and Wesley never would've guessed is that they would make a memory they wouldn't forget.
"It was pretty packed that day, then everything just went downhill from there." said Labenz.
Store Manager Carrie Rob said she became suspicious of a man who was walking around with multiple coats and took them into a dressing room for more than 20 minutes.
"Most of the time when you have coats or outerwear, you just try it on right out on the floor," said Robb. "When he came out of the dressing room I had already told our two boys down there and our other manager on duty 'keep an eye out.'"
The man eventually made his way to Tomas's register with what the employees said was his jacket tightly zipped up to the neck, and looked suspicious. The man put a shirt on the counter to buy and asked if he could use Apple Pay.
"I said 'no you cannot' and he said 'alright let me go grab my wallet quick,'" said Labenz. "When he walked out the sensors went off, so I took off after him, caught him outside, he took off around the corner, which was the opposite way of his vehicle."
The shoplifter can be seen on video running northwest towards the Ford dealership across the street with Tomas following behind. Tomas then went through the store's back door to call Wesley for help.
We do go after customers, because it could've been our error for forgetting a security tag," said Robb. "In this instance, we knew he didn't purchase anything."
Tomas called 9-1-1, and the boys, plus a good samaritan adult, followed the trail of the man towards the Ford dealership where they momentarily lost him.
"We started looking for footprints because it snowed that day, and it was still snowing out," said Fishler. "We seen his footprints going towards the corn, so me and another guy went into the corn, tracked his footprints, and we seen him in one of the corn rows, then he started running."
The man ran all the way around a tree line and circled around towards Gary's Automotive, totaling around a half-mile jog for everyone involved.
At Gary's, the police arrived and apprehended the man, who was identified as 21-year-old Javier Baide Perez, who had previously been arrested for shoplifting.
Baide Perez had three stolen coats and a vest on him, and the Grand Island Police searched his vehicle and found two additional jackets plus a wallet, which he had stolen from the store earlier that day. The amount of stolen items totaled around $800.
"We are grateful for them," said Robb. "I call them your typical Nebraska homegrown boys, they just took action without being asked."
While they boys aren't even old enough to legally vote, they went will beyond the call of duty to help not only the store, but also the Grand Island community.
Reporter: "If you could rewind time, go back there now, would you have done anything differently?"
Tomas and Wesley: "Nope, definitely not...nothing."
The Western Edge owner gave the boys gift cards to the store for their bravery and heroism.