‘He said he was there to kill me’
Westboro storeowner trapped for two hours by knife-wielding man
Trapped for nearly two hours in his kitchen-supplies store by a knifewielding man, Warren Snider thought he was going to die.
“Sometimes memories come back of certain incidents at certain times when I was close to being stabbed to death, when I thought he was really losing it,” the Westboro businessman said yesterday, a day after the terrifying incident.
The day began as normal for the 60year-old storeowner.
Outside, a worker was painting the shop, Kitchenalia, from a peeling brown to a fresh coat of yellow. Inside, with strainers, fondue sets, and spatulas lining the displays, Mr. Snider served customers as he waited for an employee to arrive for the afternoon shift. They were preparing for Westfest, the annual arts and entertainment festival that draws thousands to the neighbourhood.
A man wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt entered. Mr. Snider recognized him as a man who often sold small items to stores. Mr. Snider remembered buying items from him over the years, but it had been a while.
“I thought he was just coming in to say hello,” he said.
Instead, the man, armed with a knife, came behind the counter and tried to strangle him.
“He said he was there to kill me,” Mr. Snider said.
“I asked him why. All he could say was: ‘You know why.’ I never did get an answer from him.”
Tactical police arrived on the scene, cordoned off a section of Richmond Road and set up a command post across the street.
The man forced the storeowner to sit on the floor behind a counter. The tense moments were marked with long silences.
For Mr. Snider, it felt like a “rollercoaster” ride of hope and despair.
“There were the times he gave me hope. There were other times when I was close to being stabbed to death,” he said.
Because the man stayed close to him, Mr. Snider said he couldn’t make a move toward the door. At one point, Mr. Snider tried to stretch his legs. The man then smashed a ceramic serving platter over Mr. Snider’s head.
Police later entered the building through the garage and approached an entrance to the main storeroom, Mr. Snider said.
The man repeatedly taunted and threatened police, telling them to shoot him, Mr. Snider and witnesses said.
“He would say to police, ‘What is it going to take for you to shoot me?’ He would make me stand up in front of the police and say, ‘Do I have to do this?’ and make the motion to stab me in the chest.”
Careful not to say anything to set him off, Mr. Snider said he stayed quiet.
After talking to someone on the phone — Mr. Snider isn’t sure whom — the man became distraught and emotional.
“Would you put the knife down? We could walk out of here together and we can both live through this?” Mr. Snider remembered asking. The man refused. Mr. Snider then asked if he could go. The man relented, but Mr. Snider didn’t want to leave until he tried one more time to help the man who had been holding him hostage.
“I said come with me, we’ll walk out together. I won’t let them hurt you. I promise you that.” Again, the man refused. At about 5:40 p.m., Mr. Snider walked out of the store, where a swarm of tactical officers was waiting. Paramedics treated his head wound.
When the man tried to slit his own throat, officers threw a distraction grenade before using a rubber bullet gun and Taser to subdue him, police said.
Mr. Snider said he used to see the man in the neighbourhood, but doesn’t even know his name. “There is no possible reason that I can think of why he would choose me,” he said.
Just hours before the incident, the man had dropped by Janet Detillieux’s nearby store, Country Clover, with some items to sell.
The man often approaches stores asking if they will sell his things on consignment, she said.
“What confused me was the fact that (he) was very courteous” that morning, she said. “So, I was very, very surprised later on to find out that he was across the street ... that he had snapped.”
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Snider’s four children were cleaning up the mess, in time to open at noon for Westfest.
As the sun beat down, Mr. Snider stood on the front porch of his nearby home while a woman walked by.
“The whole neighbourhood’s worried about you,” the woman yelled.
“Aw, thanks,” Mr. Snider, the softspoken, bespectacled man responded. “I’m here. Thank you so much.”
On Friday night, police arrested 56year-old Donald Pilgrim. He has been charged with forcible confinement, two counts of assault with a weapon, mischief to property, uttering threats, and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace.
Meanwhile, Mr. Snider said he still planned to head down to the store he has owned for a half-dozen years to take part in the weekend festival, which he had been attending since it began in 2004.
A lot of his friends were worried, he said.
“I’m sure they want to see me. I owe it to them to go,” he said, adding that he wants to get back to a normal life.
“We plan to walk up and down the street and enjoy the festivities just like everyone,” he said. “Just like nonhostages.”