A man from Hay River made news in Edmonton recently when he chased down a thief.

On Feb. 29, Adam Aylward, along with his two sons, were shopping at the Bell Store in the Southgate Mall, when a man picked up and walked away with two tablets they had just purchased, along with a salesman’s cell phone sitting on top.

Aylward, who had stepped away to take a phone call from his mother at the time, said his sons were sitting at a table with the salesman when the thief hit.

While shopping in an Edmonton mall recently, Adam Aylward of Hay River chased down a thief.
NNSL file photo

“And he just walked out the story, casually,” he said.

Aylward’s sons called out to him.

“‘Dad! Dad! Dad! That guy just stole our stuff,'” he recalled. “And so I hung up on my Mom and I walked out to the hallway, and my son Jacob pointed out the guy. And I just shot after him. I ran after him as fast as I could.”

The thief was walking and trying not to draw attention, and just rounding a corner in the mall.

“At that corner store, if you look back, you could see through the store,” Aylward noted. “So he must have caught me running after him and then he bolted.”

It was obvious that he wasn’t going to catch the thief, he said.

“And I shouted out in my big, booming voice, ‘Stop that guy. He’s got our tablets,’ or something of the sort,” recalled Aylward.
A couple of people stepped out of the way.

“One person tried to trip him,” Aylward recalled. “But then one guy grabbed him by the shoulder of his jacket and completely spun him around of his own momentum.”

That allowed Aylward enough time to catch up and also grab the thief.

As the two men were trying to put the thief to the floor, he threw them off.

“I fell to the floor,” said Aylward. “And he ran again, but this other guy completely grabbed him around the waist and we wrestled him to the ground there.”

Two other people helped to hold down the suspect.

A 37-year-old man is facing charges as a result of the incident.

Aylward, 48, said it was complete instinct to chase the thief – for what was probably no more than 100 feet.

“I didn’t even think twice about it,” he said. “I probably in my head knew I was going to chase him when I asked my son to point him out. And when I saw him just casually walking away, I went for it. It showed a lot of bravado on his part to just do that. I was angry. In hindsight when you think about it, it could have been dangerous. The guy could have had a weapon to hurt me or someone else.”

There was also a family reason why he chased the thief.

Aylward and his sons were in Edmonton to see his wife, Frances Aylward, who has had cancer for the past two years and was in hospital in the Alberta capital.

“I did it because my kids have been through enough,” said Aylward, noting he was giving his sons a day at the mall.

“And then have this guy take it away,” he added. “I think I didn’t want my sons to be a victim in something like this when they’re already going through so much at the time.”

Since the incident and the news coverage it has received, Aylward noted people have been reaching out to him and saying they are happy that he did that for his sons.

“It’s been incredible,” he said.

Aylward also told his wife about what happened.

“When I told her the story, I don’t know if she truly believed it,” he said.

However, she then saw the story reported on Global News Edmonton.

Aylward was pleased that strangers stepped in to help him when he called out, noting it would have been disappointing if no one had done anything.

“Some people they’re fearful,” he said. “They’re afraid and they’re like, ‘I’ve got no investment in this.’ But then there are some people that just said, ‘Something is not going on right. I want to help.'”

His sons – 12-year-old Jacob and 15-year-old Ian – were impressed by their father’s heroics, with his youngest son describing him as running like Olympic champion Usain Bolt.

“I am not like Usain Bolt,” Aylward said with a laugh. “I’m more like a hippopotamus at feeding time. I am not a runner.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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