EDMONTON -- An RCMP officer was hit with a baton during an arrest in a Walmart parking lot in Cold Lake, Alta., Tuesday.

The Mountie found a stolen vehicle in the parking lot and attempted to arrest the thief at approximately 5:30 p.m., police said.

The man, 44, punched the officer in the head, stole their baton and struck them in the head several times.

A local resident, who did not want to be fully named for fear of retribution, says RCMP were already at the store when she and her husband arrived. He ran inside to buy diapers, so she was alone with two toddlers when she says the officer approached the thief. 

“As soon as she went to detain him he kind of like uppercutted her, probably two or three times in the jaw. That’s when she went down,” Morgan recalled. 

“She gets on her feet pulls her baton, whips it out, and goes to smack him with it and he just grabbed it out of the air — rips it out of her hand — and kind of cave man styled her in the back of the head with it. … She went back down and he gets on top of her again and just starts bashing her with this baton. Like he’s going for the skull every time. 

“And she was screaming at the top of her lungs.”

The man fled when a passerby started yelling at him. 

According to police, he left with the baton, threatened another driver with it and a knife and stole a Trailblazer.

He drove southbound on Highway 28; RCMP chased him and disabled the stolen vehicle.

The 44-year-old was arrested without incident and the baton was recovered, police said.

The RCMP officer was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries and is now recovering at home.

Morgan considers her lucky to have survived the beating without help. 

She says some members of the public watched the incident “like it was a joke.”

“It was heartbreaking because you want to do something but at the same time you can’t jeopardize my young children.”

The officer, she insisted, did nothing to escalate the situation. 

“We should be helping each other not hating each other no matter what colour we wear. You see someone who has done nothing wrong and they’re being brutalized basically it’s something someone needs to step up and do something.”

The man is in custody and will be charged.

Cold Lake is located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.