'Spiceman' charged for tossing seasoning at would-be thief

Naveen Polapad. (QMI Files)

Naveen Polapad. (QMI Files)

Joe Warmington, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:28 AM ET

TORONTO - There's Batman, Spider-Man, Superman and now in Toronto, there's now an accused vigilante they are calling The Spiceman. And he's garnered the attention of the highest office in the land.

One person's noxious substances are another person's delicacy.

People from all over come to experience Naveen Polapady's famous chicken marsala and almost never complain.

But that changed last summer when, brandishing a broom, he allegedly used "a mixture of spices" from that famous dish and to fend off a would-be robber by throwing it in his eyes.

Toronto Police charged him with assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and administering a noxious substance.

The very idea of it, and the scenario laid out in the case, had customers in stitches at Maroli Indian Kerala Cuisine restaurant Thursday night.

"It sounds ridiculous," said former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, who with husband and author John Ralston Saul and friends, couldn't control their laughter.

Of course, there is nothing funny about it to the man facing serious criminal charges.

"It has been so stressful," said Polapady, who said he doesn't feel like he's a criminal.

"I have never been involved with police before," he said. "I felt I was protecting my family, my wife and kids who live upstairs."

He feels he was the one attacked by a man who is alleged to have been breaking into his restaurant and other businesses in the area.

"I had my life threatened," he claimed. "The guy said he was going to kill me."

And yet when the dust settled in an incident behind his popular restaurant, he found himself in handcuffs and facing boatload of serious charges that could land him a prison term.

It is alleged the robber received minor wounds in the fight behind the restaurant.

It's the police's contention there is a threshold of how far one can go to defend themselves and their property. After an investigation, which included surveying video evidence, they decided to send this case to the justice system.

Citing that same video, defence lawyer Calvin Barry said he will seek a meeting with the Crown to "try to resolve the matter" since "he was the one who called 911 and who is an outstanding member of our community."

The case against his client by police, or his assertion he is innocent, has not yet been tested in a court room. Polapady was in court Thursday, where his case was put over until later in the month.

It has echoes of the David Chen case in Chinatown, where he was charged with kidnapping and assault after attempting a citizen's arrest on an alleged serial plant thief.

Much of the public was outraged when the Crown used that alleged thief with a long criminal record as a witness to convict Chen.

He was acquitted after a trail.

Like with Chen, many of Polapady's customers are behind The Spiceman, including Clarkson who said she has been coming to and enjoying his restaurant for four years.

"It's the best Indian food in Toronto," she said, calling this situation "infuriating."

But Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said his view is people should not rush to judgement and let the justice system sort it out.

"People are only getting a fraction of the details," he said. "People are entitled to come to conclusions without knowing more than 2% of the facts, but there is more to this case and the court is where it should be presented."

Barry said the process will certainly be followed but points out "under Prime Minister Harper's initiative" to bolster the citizen's arrest and self protection laws, this case would never see the inside of a courtroom.

The Prime Minister's Office, said Polapady, called him Saturday to provide moral support.

"It was a nice phone call" he said. "I have received a lot of support from the community and other business owners through telephone and email."

Polapady said his hope is it will all be resolved and he can concentrate on doing what he does best.

The Spiceman's regular customers, who rave about his food, certainly agree with that notion.

- With files from Darren Savage


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