A security guard at the Macy’s store in downtown Philadelphia was killed and another was badly wounded Monday after a suspected hat thief attacked them with a knife, police said.
The chain of events that ended in tragedy began around 11 a.m. when the guards spotted a man trying to make off with some hats, interim Police Commissioner John Stanford said during a press conference outside the store.
The guards were able to recover the hats and the suspect left the store without incident, Stanford said. But about 10 minutes later, the suspect returned and began stabbing one of the guards.
When another guard tried to intervene, he was stabbed as well, Stanford said.
Both guards were rushed to Jefferson Hospital. One of them, a 30-year-old who had been stabbed in the neck, died from his injuries, police said. The second guard, who is 23, was in stable condition after being stabbed in the face and forearm.
The police did not release the names of the two guards, both of whom were unarmed.
“These security guards were just doing their jobs,” Stanford said. “This started as a retail theft that turned into a robbery and then ultimately to a homicide. It’s just a tragic situation.”
Meanwhile, the suspect fled to a nearby elevated subway station where he ditched the knife, police said. He was arrested several miles northeast of there at the Somerset Station in the Kensington neighborhood.
Stanford also did not identify the suspect or divulge the charges against him.
The store, which is in Center City in the historic Wanamaker building, was shut down as police continued to investigate and gather evidence.
“We are heartbroken about the incident that took place today at Macy’s Center City,” the company said in a statement. “The store will temporarily remain closed as we work with law enforcement on this investigation and defer any further comments about the case to them. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our customers and colleagues is always our top priority.”
Fears of a surge in shoplifting have been spreading in recent months, propelled in part by politicians like former president Donald Trump who in October said he would support shooting shoplifters, and by videos of organized shoplifting gangs looting high-end stores.
But law enforcement has not reported a notable increase in shoplifting nationwide and the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank, said the larceny level is actually lower than it was before the pandemic.