MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island shop keeper is facing criminal charges after allegedly detaining a suspicious teen in his own store.
Ron Collura, owner of Arata’s Delicatessen in Sea Cliff, spoke exclusively with CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Wednesday about the incident. Collura told Gusoff he feared for his safety when he called police and kept the teen from leaving his store. He said he believed the teen and another man were planning to rob him and his wife.
The ordeal began when the pair entered the store together, Gusoff reported. Collura said the teenager, who admitted he was 17 years old, asked for cigarettes and that he refused the sale. Meanwhile, surveillance video shows the other man standing in an aisle.
“He should be lowering his head looking at product but he’s not, he’s looking over at the register. That’s why it looked suspicious,” Collura told Gusoff.
After calling 911, the deli owner said he told the man in the aisle to leave and ordered the teen to remain in the store, guarding the door until police arrived.
“It’s sort of an emergency because there are a whole bunch of people here and I’m afraid for my safety,” Collura told the 911 dispatcher.
Collura said it wasn’t until after police arrived that the “suspicious” person put on identification and announced they were Nassau County Health Department inspectors on an underage cigarette sting.
Now, Colluras is being charged with obstructing government administration.
“His reaction was instinctive, it was defensive and it was reasonable and I would suggest the last thing it is, was criminal,” said defense attorney Steven Christiansen. “This guy never identified himself. This is what a reasonable store owner would do under these circumstances.”
Nassau County police, however, said the deli owner shouldn’t have detained the teenager.
“He cannot keep someone detained in a store when he committed no crime. The 17-year-old did nothing wrong. He was acting in consort with the health department,” said Nassau County police spokesman Kenneth Lack
Colluras faces a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail if he is convicted. He is due in court on Dec. 3 and said he will vigorously plead not guilty.
A spokesperson for the Nassau County Health Department would not comment on the case, saying it is a police matter.
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