A mall shopkeeper who allegedly used a baseball bat to take on an accused shoplifter has been charged along with the alleged would-be thief, after a nasty public stoush that also saw a "slippery floor" sign enlisted as a weapon.
Alex Dekker, of Koonawarra, was allegedly caught on CCTV at Dapto Mall in the NSW Illawarra trying to use bike handlebars to crack open a glass cabinet at the mall's Mister Minit store about 8pm on Saturday.
He fled when a security guard went to confront him, but the next day word of the incident reached the Mister Minit owner, Jay MacLellan.
According to police, MacLellan created social media posts in a bid to identify the would-be thief and was overwhelmed with information from the public, including photos of Dekker, his full name, his address and the address of a relative.
MacLellan contacted Lake Illawarra Police, who came to the mall and collected CCTV footage. Officers say MacLellan told them he knew a magistrate would only give Dekker "a slap on the wrist" and that he wouldn't be compensated for the damaged glass.
He told police he refused to let this happen and he would have people he knew "run through" Dekker's home, assault him and take something of equal value.
According to the officers, he was repeatedly told to let police handle the matter and not to "take matters into his own hands".
Shop owners scattered in fear
But later that day, after spotting Dekker at the mall, MacLellan allegedly armed himself with a baseball bat and confronted the 27-year-old, before both men began screaming and threatening each other.
According to a police account, members of the public and shop owners scattered in fear. Dekker left the mall minutes later but at the exit collected a "slippery floor" sign and swung it behind him, narrowly missing the heads of a passing man and woman.
He allegedly threw the sign, breaking it. Moving into the carpark, he allegedly launched a trolley at MacLellan and security staff before leaving.
Police say he avoided them for two days before officers attending his home for an unrelated incident saw him run and jump a series of fences. He was arrested a short time later.
According to police, he showed no remorse and "just wanted to make sure that MacLellan was charged with the same offence".
Dekker fronted Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday charged with affray and other charges unrelated to Saturday's incident, including an alleged episode of wilful exposure.
The court heard MacLellan had since "been charged for his involvement".
In opposing Dekker's release on bail, prosecutor Tanya Pavlin said the case against him was strong. The incident was serious and had been witnessed by numerous members of the public, she said.
"Mr Dekker made admissions to police and the entirety of the incident has been captured on CCTV. What would be of most concern is Mr Dekker's criminal behaviour appears to be escalating," Sgt Pavlin said.
But defence lawyer Claire Carpenter said Dekker may yet be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"He's faced with someone with a baseball bat. There's a live issue as to whether his actions were proportionate."
"The entire incident seems to be instigated by MacLellan."
Registrar Tina McKenna "reluctantly" agreed to grant bail.
"I'm going to give you a chance," she said.
Dekker used his time in court to again inquire whether MacLellan had been charged.
"From what I read in the police facts, he's been charged with the same offence you have," the registrar told him.
It is a condition of Dekker's release that he report to police daily and he is banned from Dapto Mall. The matter returns to court January 11.