Customer performs CPR on store manager who collapses after confronting suspected shoplifter

KENT, WA (KIRO/CNN) – A convenience store manager credits one of his customers and two police officers with saving his life when he went into cardiac arrest after confronting a suspected shoplifter.

Police said the 22-year-old suspect is a “prolific” shoplifter. Workers at the 7-Eleven where the incident happened said he’d stolen from them several times before.

Surveillance video from March 1 shows store manager Devinder Pal Singh, with 911 on the phone, confronting the suspect. A clerk then comes up behind the suspect and grabs him in an attempt to hold him until police arrive.

The clerk and the suspect tussle, knocking down displays as the suspect inches out the door.

Moments later, Singh, still on the phone, goes into cardiac arrest and collapses.

"I don't know what happened to me," Singh said.

A woman who’s a regular customer at the store started performing CPR on Singh.

Kent Police Officer Jeremiah Johnson got the call on his way to work. He and Officer Doug Westcott arrived and took over, delivering a shock with a defibrillator.

“It’s just as intense as if he were the victim of a gunshot wound,” Johnson said.

Singh was without a heartbeat for several minutes.

"It might as well be 30 minutes," Johnson said.

Then the officers felt a pulse, just as firefighters arrived.

Singh remembers the officers’ words when his heart started beating again: "You were gone, but you are back."

"It's the little moments that make it all worth it," Johnson said.

Doctors later found a blockage in Singh’s heart. He’s now recovering at home after undergoing surgery.

"It is the highest level of humanity," Singh said of the officers and the customer who saved his life.

Singh and his family had the chance to thank the woman who performed CPR after inviting her to their house.

Meanwhile, the shoplifting suspect police say they know quite well was long gone.

"I have his date of birth memorized," Johnson said.

Johnson said he arrested the suspect Monday for an unrelated criminal trespass.

Police said the suspected shoplifter, who they believe is homeless, has been captured on video stealing from other stores and will likely be cited for theft.

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