Published on Jun 9, 2012
When two masked men walked into Zhen Yang's Gatineau convenience store Tuesday night, at first he thought it was a practical joke.
He was just closing up the store, J.a.c.line Depanneur in Hull's east end, around 10:30 p.m., eager to get back to his wife and kids who were waiting for him in their upstairs apartment.
But as the men whipped out short knives and demanded cash from the register, he knew it was no farce.
"Nobody takes out a knife to make a joke," he said. "At that point, I got a little bit scared."
But on security footage obtained by the Sun, he seems calm and composed as the men point at the register with their knives and demand for him to open it.
Yet as the men became more agitated and one of them tries to get behind the counter, Yang knew his life might seriously be in danger.
Yang searched the shelves behind the counter for something, anything he could use to fend off his assailants.
"I need to find something to defend myself, I cannot use my pencil, right?" he said as he relived the experience.
Then Yang remembered he had a can of bear spray tucked behind some belongings.
The spray had been sitting there unused for years.
Yang let the two thieves have a full dose to the face. He said his skin is still burning from the spray, which clouded the air.
While one man fled the scene, Yang managed to grab the other as he leaped over the counter, repeatedly spanking him with a closed fist.
Soon after his wife, Bi Liang, and a customer came in and helped him subdue the suspect until police arrived.
Liang heard the scuffle because they have monitors set up to hear the children upstairs.
Interrogating the first suspect led to the arrest of the second, and both men are being charged with robbery, wearing a disguise and possession of a concealed weapon.
Customers have been stopping in all day to applaud Yang and Liang for defending their store.
"Their lives were threatened," said Stephane Woodford. "They did something good. I came especially just to congratulate them. At least they defended themselves."
This isn't the first time the couple has been robbed.
Since buying the store six years ago, they've been robbed at least three times, once when Liang was pregnant and got pepper-sprayed by a thief while working alone.
Liang said she's had enough with the robberies.
"I hate all robbers," she said. "We did the right thing. You come in first to rob my store then to kill my husband, I try to protect myself and my family."
Despite their actions, Gatineau police warn all store owners not to take the law into their own hands and listen to the demands of thieves.
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