A looming court case has changed the way David Chen runs his Chinatown grocery store.

The 35-year-old has stopped displaying plants and small items on the side street beside his Dundas Street West market — once an easy target for shoplifters.

But even if a petty thief were to nab something from the store, Chen, who is facing kidnapping and assault charges after he chased and tied up a suspected shoplifter two months ago, would likely look the other way.

“He’s too worried. If he did something and broke bail, police could basically lock him up,” said Ricky Chan, spokesperson for Victims’ Rights Action Committee (VRAC), a group lobbying to have Chen’s charges dropped.

“To make it so difficult for him to operate his business is unjust.”

Chen made a brief statement in Cantonese yesterday outside the Old City Hall courthouse, in which he thanked his supporters.

Since early June, nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition on VRAC’s website in support of Chen.

The volunteer organization is hoping the growing list provides some political clout as it urges the Crown to drop all charges against him.

“(Chen) deserves our thanks for (what he did), not to be brought into court,” said committee member Warren Kinsella, who said the grocer did what “any honest person would do.”

The charges stem from an incident in late May when a man allegedly stole a box of tree plants from Chen’s store.

When the suspected thief returned to the shop, Chen and two of his employees chased him down, bound his hands and feet, put him in a delivery truck and contacted police.

But when officers arrived, they charged the three grocers with assault and kidnapping; the other man was charged with theft.

Chen returns to court Aug. 24.

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