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Niagara Falls
Thursday, June 20, 2024
NOTL woman assaulted by stranger — inside Niagara police station
A man attacked Shirley Dudeck, 77, without warning while she was at a Niagara police station to file an accident report. She remains in a lot of pain with bruised ribs and other injuries. KEVIN MACLEAN

She just wanted to report the fender-bender mishap that damaged her shiny red SUV.

Instead, she ended up badly battered and bruised after she was attacked by a stranger — inside a Niagara police station.

Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Shirley Dudeck says she was seated in a waiting area at Niagara Regional Police’s district 1 headquarters on Welland Avenue in St. Catharines last Thursday afternoon when a man with apparent mental health issues assaulted her.

The 77-year-old Shakespeare Avenue resident was waiting her turn when the man grabbed the fanny pack she was holding.

Inside was all her ID, credit cards, driver’s licence and more.

He pulled and she resisted.

He pulled some more and then dragged her several feet, through the exit door and outside, where she finally let go and tumbled to the concrete.

“It all happened in seconds,” Dudeck said in an interview.

Police officers were behind a glass partition when the attack occurred and they immediately sprang into action, she said.

But by the time they were able to reach her and subdue the man — “literally it was just a few seconds” — the damage was done.

Her back and hip and arms and ribs were banged up. She was bruised and bleeding. And almost a week later she still aches all over.

“The police officers were fantastic,” said Dudeck, a retired gym teacher.

“They were there right away and they were so helpful afterward.”

She doesn’t know the man, but had chatted with him briefly before he turned on her.

He had come to the police station because “it’s a safe place,” he told her.

“And he was really concerned about where all the surveillance cameras were,” she said.

Then suddenly, he lashed out.

When he grabbed her fanny pack, “I wasn’t going to let go. I just reacted. I know some people will say I should have just let it go, but I had everything in it,” she said.

Asked for details about the incident, police issued a statement noting that after Dudeck refused to give up her fanny pack, she “fell to the floor while still clutching the purse and was subsequently dragged while the suspect attempted to flee the building.”

“The suspect dragged the victim through the lobby, front vestibule and toward the concrete steps in front of the police station,” where officers subdued him.

Despite her own trauma — her rib injury means it literally hurts to breathe or cough or yawn — she feels sympathy and compassion for her assailant.

“The poor man,” she said, referring to what she suspects are some serious mental health problems.

“I feel sorry for him. He obviously has got some serious issues that made him do what he did that day.”

Beyond him being charged by police, she is unsure what has happened to him.

“I’d like to think he is getting the help he needs.”

The officers at the station came to her aid immediately and were “so helpful and concerned,” Dudeck said.

They insisted she get medical care and arranged for an ambulance to take her to the St. Catharines hospital.

She said she got great care at the hospital but it all made for a long day.

The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. and she finally got home, thanks to a helpful friend, about seven hours later.

A female officer from the station gave Dudeck her phone number and then arranged to drive her car home to NOTL.

Police said a 39-year-old St. Catharines man has been charged with robbery.

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