State

Store owners suspected of beating potential shoplifter

DELHI -- Merced County sheriff's officials arrested the owners of a convenience store on suspicion of beating a man who allegedly was caught stealing cigarettes and Moon Pies from their business, a department spokesman said Thursday.

Tajinder Saini, 24, and Puneet Kamboj, 33, both of Livingston, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, said deputy Tom MacKenzie.

Saini and Kamboj were booked at the Merced County Jail. By Thursday morning, both men had been released on $30,000 bail.

MacKenzie said the 43-year-old man suffered two broken fingers, a cut above and below his left eye, and several bruises on his back.

He said victims of theft can make a citizen's arrest and detain a suspect until authorities arrive, but "they do not have the right to carry out the punishment themselves."

Saini and Kamboj own the Arco am-pm gas station and convenience store in the 9000 block of Stephens Street in Delhi, MacKenzie said.

Family members of both men declined to comment, and Saini and Kamboj did not return phone calls.

The attack occurred Wednesday at the convenience store. MacKenzie said the man walked into the store, and the employees working behind the counter recognized him and suspected him of previously shoplifting at the store.

He said the employees went outside, locked the man inside the store, called Saini and Kamboj and waited for the owners.

MacKenzie said the owners arrived at the store and confronted the man when they discovered he had some Moon Pies and cigarettes worth less than $10 in his pockets. He said it appears the man was going to steal from the store, but he hadn't left the store, and he could have paid for the merchandise.

When the owners confronted the man, MacKenzie said, Kamboj began pushing the man and grabbed him in a bear hug before Saini started hitting the man with a metal broom handle.

MacKenzie said Saini and Kamboj didn't stop hitting the man until they saw blood coming from a cut above his eye. He said the owners then released the man and he ran out of the store to a nearby bathroom to clean up.

The owners called the Sheriff's Department to report the theft, but deputies never learned of the beating, MacKenzie said. The injured man had left the area.

Employees at a Delhi adult care facility where the man lives called sheriff's deputy Mark Taylor to report the attack. MacKenzie said Taylor went to the care facility and found the injured man with his arm in a sling.

Sheriff's detectives served a search warrant at the convenience store to gather evidence. After their initial investigation, the detectives arrested the store owners.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.



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