Chris Pelech had his motorcycle helmet stolen while visiting Maple Ridge, and was pepper sprayed after chasing the thieves. (Contributed)

Lower Mainland motorcyclist pepper sprayed after chasing thief

Pricey helmet stolen on weekend ride, while at lunch in Maple Ridge

A man who chased the men who stole his $1,500 motorcycle helmet ended up pepper-sprayed in the face and lost track of them.

Chris Pelech, a 47-year-old White Rock resident, stopped in Maple Ridge on Sunday during the last motorcycle ride of the year for him and his wife. They were headed for Hell’s Gate, but decided to stop for lunch, and found Big Feast Bistro online. They pulled their motorcycles into a parking spot right across 227th Street, where they could watch them.

Because they were so close, they left their motorcycle helmets on the handlebars.

The couple couldn’t get a table on the patio, and were inside the restaurant. Pelech was just starting his second cup of coffee when he noticed a man standing over his motorcycle.

He started for the door, and by the time he was outside, the man was on a mountain bike, and Pelech’s helmet was gone.

The suspect pedalled south on 227th St., with Pelech running behind. He could see the man trying to hold something underneath a large jacket with a hood.

“He was trying to hide it, and pedal away.”

The mountain bike made a right-hand turn on Selkirk Avenue, and as Pelech rounded the corner, he saw a man stuffing a “large bulbous object” that he believed to be his helmet into a backpack. He didn’t see the transfer, but was sure the original suspect had passed the helmet to a second person on foot.

“Hey, man,” he said.

The man with the backpack didn’t acknowledge him, walking through the parking lot of Langley Farm Market.

“Hey man, what’s in the backpack?” Pelech said, closing in on the second man.

“He turned and fired pepper spray at me,” he said.

The first shot missed, but the second he took fully in the face.

“It took my breath away. I inhaled some, and it dropped me to my knees, and I couldn’t see very well,” he said.

“If it was a $100 helmet, I would have called it a day.”

But the helmet is a Schuberth C3 Pro with a smoke shield and a high-end communications system.

Pelech needed help, and banged on a car window to ask the man inside to call 9-1-1. Then he continued after the man with the backpack, yelling at people to stop him.

Two men joined the pursuit, one man taking video with his phone. As they drew close to one of the men, Pelech warned them of the pepper spray, and they fell back. They went down Lougheed Highway and into the Haney Place Mall.

The original suspect on the bike returned, and gave the man with the backpack his bike. He rode away to in a southwest direction.

Then the first suspect walked into Haney Place Mall.

The pepper spray was continuing to irritate Pellech’s eyes, he couldn’t see, and he had to give up the chase.

“My adrenaline was done, and I was blind,” he said.

He almost walked in front of a car on the way back to Big Feast.

The police arrived and took statements from witnesses.

Ridge Meadows RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Brenda Gresiuk said police got the call at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 21, and are now investigating a theft and assault with a weapon. They have canvassed the area for witnesses and video surveillance.

Pelech did not get a good look at the first suspect, who took his helmet and fled on a bike. But he was about 5’6” to 5’8” and with a hunched appearance and baggy clothing, including a dark plaid jacket with a hood.

The man who put the helmet in a backpack was about six feet tall, slender, had a blondish, short haircut and bad teeth.

Pelech said it would be about six or seven hours before he started to feel normal again.

He appreciated the restaurant did not charge him for lunch, or the people who got involved.

“A shout out to the good citizens of Maple Ridge who helped out,” he said.

“I feel sorry for the taxpaying citizens in that area, who have to put up with that crap.”

Pelech is a tugboat operator and said he has to take some responsibility in that he left the helmet, but has been riding and travelling for a long time without incident.

“I’m 47 years old and I’m working towards a goal of 50 countries before 50. I currently sit at 49 countries to date, and a few on the list were not the safest to backpack through,” he said. “It’s shocking that this incident took place 45 minutes from where I live … all those countries, all those scary little villages in Central America in the middle of the night, arriving on the chicken bus, travelling through villages in the Transkei in South Africa, where you’re more of a food source than tourist.

“Never once was I assaulted. That happened in Maple Ridge just before brunch. Crazy.”

Gresiuk asks that anyone who witnessed the incident or has information about the suspects, contact the Ridge Meadows RCMP at 604-463-6251. If you wish to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or leave a tip online at www.solvecrime.ca. CrimeStoppers may pay a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

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