Police and firefighters were called to Yellowknife's 50 Street and 50 Avenue after what was either a bear spray or pepper spray attack at a downtown business.
Police said they were initially summoned by the activation of the property's alarm just before 9pm on Friday. However, they arrived to find "an employee in distress" and "the presence of a noxious substance."
A Yellowknife resident who said they were present at the time, Debbie Dang, told Cabin Radio she believed the substance to be pepper spray. Dang identified the business as Saigon's Smoke Shop, telling the CBC her aunt had been alone in the store at the time.
Describing a male attacker, Dang told the broadcaster: "He said, 'Give me your money,' and at the same time he said that, he sprayed her with pepper spray or bear spray."
Dang said her aunt pulled the cash register toward her to try to prevent the robbery, then grabbed a knife from behind the counter – which convinced the would-be thief to run away. Dang told the CBC her aunt was "pretty traumatized."
RCMP, who believe the substance may have been bear spray, said fire crews were called in to help decontaminate the scene. However, Karen Novak – lead singer of Welders Daughter, a band which routinely performs at the next-door Gold Range nightclub – said she felt the effects long after.
"We were affected being right next door," Novak wrote, describing "coughing fits by many people."
"It felt like I had fibreglass in my throat," Novak continued. "I was singing only an hour after and no-one told us what had happened, nor did they do anything to the Gold Range to decontaminate."
A forensics team and police dogs were later called to assist the investigation, RCMP said.
Police said nothing was stolen from the business and nobody received lasting injury, though Dang told Cabin Radio a black iPhone 8 Plus was missing. She appealed for its return, or for anyone with information to contact RCMP.
The investigation is ongoing, police said. Contact the Yellowknife detachment at 867-669-1111 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 if you can help.