Moon Pie beating: Delhi mini-mart owners accused

Saini Tajinder, Merced County jail booking mugshot
Saini Tajinder, Merced County jail booking mugshot

DELHI — Merced County sheriff’s officials arrested two convenience store owners suspected of beating up a man who allegedly was caught shoplifting cigarettes and Moon Pies, a department spokesman said today.

Tajinder Saini, 24, and Puneet Kamboj, 33, both of Livingston, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, said deputy Tom MacKenzie.

Saini and Kamboj own the Arco am-pm gas station and convenience store in the 9000 block of Stephens Street.

MacKenzie said the 43-year-old man who was beaten Tuesday suffered two broken fingers, cuts above and below his left eye, and several bruises on his back.

MacKenzie said the man walked into the store and the employees working behind the counter recognized him and suspected him of shoplifting previously.

He said the employees locked the man inside the store and called Saini and Kamboj, who went to the store.

The owners confronted the man and discovered he had some Moon Pies and cigarettes worth less than $10 in his pockets, MacKenzie said. He said Kamboj then began pushing the man and grabbed him in a “bear hug” before Saini started hitting the victim with a metal broom handle.

MacKenzie said Saini and Kamboj didn’t stop hitting the man until they saw blood coming from a cut above his eye. He said the owners released the victim and he ran out of the store to a nearby bathroom to get clean himself up.

The owners called the Sheriff’s Department to report the theft, but the injured man already had left the area and deputies were unaware of the beating, MacKenzie said.

On Wednesday, employees at an adult care center where the victim lives called Deputy Mark Taylor to report the attack. MacKenzie said Taylor went to the care center and found him with his arm in a sling.

Sheriff’s detectives served a search warrant at the convenience store to gather evidence.

Saini and Kamboj were booked at the Merced County Jail. They have been released on $30,000 bail. They could not be reached for comment this afternoon.