Florida shoppers assaulted with bear repellent during suspected candle thief’s escape

DORAL, Fla. — At least 35 South Florida shoppers and mall employees were injured Saturday when a man sprayed bear repellent inside a Bath & Body Works store before fleeing with two bags of stolen candles, authorities confirmed.

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According to police, the man sprayed the store manager in the face with the chemical irritant before making his getaway from Miami International Mall in a yellow taxi, WPLG reported.

The manager was taken to the hospital in serious condition, WFLA reported.

“We started coughing actually, where we were, and it wasn’t even that close,” one victim told the TV station, adding, “We were all of the way across, and we felt it. We could smell it. We could breathe it.”

Fifteen Bath & Body Works employees and customers were impacted by the repellent inside the store, and more than a dozen people outside the store were also affected, WPEC reported.

The suspect, described as a heavyset man with short-cropped black hair wearing a black shirt and blue jean shorts, could face up to 35 felonies for the incident, Doral Police Department spokesperson Rey Valdes told the TV station.