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'It was instant karma': Viral video captures failed theft attempt in Nanaimo, B.C.


Mounties in Nanaimo, B.C., say two late-night revellers are lucky their allegedly drunken antics weren't reported to police after security cameras captured the men trying to steal a heavy sign from a downtown business.

"It's another act of drunkenness," Const. Gary O'Brien of the Nanaimo RCMP told CTV News, saying the detachment was made aware of the video, which has racked up hundreds of thousands of views online.

"There's no excuse for being intoxicated," the police spokesperson added. "If it had been reported, these guys would be facing charges of theft and vandalism."

Leon Drzewiecki, owner of the NYLA Fresh Thread menswear store, says he didn't report the theft because the sign was returned and he's just happy no one was seriously hurt.

"I didn't inform the RCMP," he told CTV News. "They're busy with a lot of other things going on right now and I don't want to trouble them with something so minor."

The video, captured on store surveillance cameras earlier this month, shows a man hoist another man onto his shoulders outside the shop shortly after 2 a.m. The elevated man works to unfasten the store's overhead sign before the weight of it topples him onto the sidewalk.

'Instant karma'

"It was instant karma," Drzewiecki says. "As soon as that thing let go, he went straight to the ground face first."

Staff at the store hadn't noticed the sign was missing until Nanaimo Port Authority staff found and returned it later that day.

"I definitely went straight to the security footage" upon learning the sign had been taken, Drzewiecki says. "And I saw the guys at 2 a.m. helping me to uninstall my sign after 10 years."

Indeed, the shop owner first hung the sign above his storefront when he opened up shop on March 8, 2014. It was no easy feat, either, he says.

The sign was made by a friend in the metal fabrication business and is comprised of a stainless steel core with two sheets of steel and two sheets of aluminum on the sides, according to Drzewiecki. "It weighs about 100 pounds," he says.

The video posted online doesn’t show the whole 15-minute sign-stealing saga, according to the owner, who says the video has since been viewed about a half-million times.

"The first five or 10 minutes, they got half the sign down and then gave up and actually walked away," he says. "And then about seven minutes later they walked to the sign and then got back on each other's shoulders and continued the process. And then, you know, instant karma the guy hit the ground face first and I'm really happy he didn't hurt himself, to be honest."

The two men then struggled to pick the sign up off the ground. "Then they both pick it up and they both carry it off because it's so heavy," Drzewiecki says. "And they only got about a block away before they actually ditched the sign in the parkade over by the waterfront."

Men were spotted at local bars

Drzewiecki says it's hard enough being a small business owner in downtown Nanaimo without such petty acts of vandalism. The father of three says he occasionally puts his own personal savings into the 10-year-old business to make payroll and keep it open.

"It's not good that these guys did that," the NYLA owner says. "I don’t think it was something that was malicious or thought through, they just kind of did it on a whim kind of thing after a long night."

On the bright side, Drzewiecki says neighbouring businesses have evidence the two men were helping to keep other establishments afloat earlier in the night.

"I've talked to some of the bar owners," he says. "I've seen video from some of the bars and they were definitely partaking in the action in a couple of the bars downtown in Nanaimo here."

The NYLA owner made news earlier last year when he began playing the catchy children's song "Baby Shark" on repeat over loudspeakers outside his business to deter loitering afterhours.

"It's a cheap, fun way to deter people away without being abrasive towards anyone else," Drzewiecki told CTV News in January 2023. "But you don't want to be listening to it over and over and over again."

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Andrew Garland Top Stories

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