Walmart shoplifter dies after struggle with staff

Nothing says “the holidays” like death and mayhem at America’s mega-stories over Black Friday weekend.

While there have been the usual reports of madness by shoppers at Walmart, this story is sad for many reasons.  (It also does help Walmart to have even more negative news after Friday’s Black Friday protests.)

I had been under the impression that employees were not supposed to chase alleged shoplifters for exactly this reason. If something goes wrong, the employees are faced with high legal costs (and possibly more), as are the stores.

Besides lousy pay and benefits, the Walmart employees are now going to have to find the money to defend themselves, regardless of how the alleged shoplifter died. Even if they did nothing wrong, this is going to be expensive, and Walmart is not known for its generosity to its employees.

The situation may change if it turns out that the local store pressured workers to take aggressive action but as it stands today, Walmart is in full CYA mode, repeating their policy to not pursue alleged shoplifters in such circumstances.

This is sad all around.

According to a police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News, the incident happened at the Walmart on Fairington Road in Lithonia. The police report said that about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a middle aged man was caught shoplifting two DVD players.

He exited the front door of the store and three employees caught him in the parking lot, where a physical altercation took place while they detained him.

When police arrived, they found the employees on top of the man. The officer put the man in handcuffs and said he noticed there was no resistance from him.

Police say one of the employees put the shoplifter in a choke hold.  According to the video, below, Walmart is saying the security guard, who accompanied two employees to confront the shoplifter, will no longer be providing services to Walmart. That may be a CYA move by Walmart, but it also sounds somewhat like an admission of guilt.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • Zone

    I currently work at a WalMart and i can tell you they hire them in store. They are called Asset Protection Assosiates

  • Strong Business Background

    Wow.

  • http://poodyheads.wordpress.com/ zorbear

    That’s me, nit-picker of the year!
    :-D

  • Naja pallida

    Alrighty, you caught me on the legalese. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Artemis-Eneldo/100000122498267 Artemis Eneldo

    Many retailers take the value of stolen merchandise out of the pay of the employee/s who “let” the items be stolen. This puts low paid employees in the position of watching their food and / or rent money walk out the door. Making a worker starve in the street is literally doing them bodily harm which is why some employees react so strongly.

  • Sorry but

    If he had not stole he would still be alive. The rest is after the fact. Who gave him the right to walk in and steal then freely walk out. This is part of our failing nation.

  • http://poodyheads.wordpress.com/ zorbear

    In most states, threatening is assault, laying a hand is battery. In this case, there were two separate crimes committed.

    ;-)

  • Isilzha

    You can bet I’ll be calling the ACTUAL police on you and then you’ll be seeing me in court for a the civil suit against you too!

  • Isilzha

    I’ve also have Wal-mart employees become VERY aggressive when I refused to show a receipt for my purchase. These workers think they have some sort of power to stop, demand, or even search me. I refuse to comply on the sheer principle that I do NOT want corporations to have more power than even the police actually do!

  • Isilzha

    Whew…at least not EVERYONE in the world is as crazy as most people posting on Yahoo news! I absolutely do NOT want to live in a world where an untrained retail worker is allowed to physically detain, assault, determine guilt and carry out punishment on free (??) citizens. I do NOT want to give up my rights and freedoms to corporations. I don’t understand why people seem so EAGER for a world like that.

  • Naja pallida

    One of the interesting things, for people who do just give up after
    being caught and give Wal-Mart their personal information, they generally try to
    get them to cover the company’s “inconvenience” with a civil demand, not
    necessarily with criminal charges. I’m sure they would press it, if they had reason to… but if they can avoid the expense and effort, they generally try to.

  • Naja pallida

    I’m one of those weird people who likes to keep an eye on local police reports, to see what’s going on in my community… and when Wal-Mart moved in, the crime rate pretty much doubled with shoplifting claims. I’m not sure if that says something about Wal-Mart or something about the community.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Exactly, that was the way WAL*MART avoided liability in the those days.

  • nicho

    On a related note, the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s OK to use your cell phone to record police.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-supreme-court-rejects-plea-to-prohibit-taping-of-police-20121126,0,686331.story

    The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Cook County state’s attorney to allow enforcement of a law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job.

    The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state’s anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Individuals who shop at WAL*MART are not likely to be able to afford to face the juggernaut of one of the nation’s must skillful law groups. WAL*MART has thousands of full time lawyers on their side and hundreds of millions of dollars to fight any case against them. Even class action suits are difficult.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    In those days the company could not be sued if the store manager was not present and so the individual employes were liable and not supported by WAL*MART. Also, in those days all security was trained by standards in schools maintained by the company. That may have changed by now. Further, the company invests hundreds of millions in fighting every case against them. Individual suits have little chance of winning. WAL*MART literally buys local, state, and federal judges.

  • Sweetie

    Read this article and tell me this is what America is supposed to be like.

  • Sweetie

    from the article:

    “Employees at the Niles, MI Wal-Mart store accused Paolucci of shoplifting some Bic lighters. Although he produced the receipt, they refused to back down, insisting that the two men go to a ‘detention room’. The employees, using vulgarities and hostility, frightened their special needs kids. (South Bend Tribune)

    Paolucci said that while he and Hitchcock were attempting to calm down the boys, the employees ordered them to enter a “detention room” for questioning. Fearful of what might happen behind closed doors, he and Hitchcock refused to enter and asked to speak to a manager.

    “Some guy came up and said, ‘I’m the manager,’ then turned around and left,” Hitchcock said.

    Paolucci said he and Hitchcock then asked store personnel to call police. Within minutes, deputies from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department’s Niles Township Patrol arrived, pleasing Paolucci who said he thought a few questions and a review of the store’s videotapes and computer records would quickly resolve the matter.

    He said he was shocked when he was immediately handcuffed, without a question being asked, and placed in the back seat of a squad car. Hitchcock wasn’t handcuffed but also was placed in the back seat of a second squad car.

    The twins, despite the protests of Paolucci and Hitchcock, were turned over to the store’s security personnel, who took them into the “detention room” or what police referred to as a security room.

    A review of the security tapes proved that Paolucci and Hitchcock had done no wrong. So the store management profusely apologized and expressed their remose, right? No. They did not.

    The two said they expected an apology and were surprised once again when personnel from the store walked up to the squad cars with the twins and read from a statement that Paolucci and Hitchcock had been banned by the store chain for life. Rather than shoplifting, the reason they were given was “being uncooperative.”

    By the time they were read the statement, Paolucci and Hitchcock said, the twins had told them that the security staff had allegedly threatened them in the security room and had made disparaging remarks about Paolucci and Hitchcock’s lifestyle. Paolucci and Hitchcock said they asked police to take statements from the boys but the officers refused, telling the couple they’d have to contact Child Protective Services.

    Wal-Mart even refused to replace frozen items that had now thawed due to their unprovoked misuse of their customers. Nor did the situation end at the harassment of the couple at the store.

    Paolucci said the boys have suffered a type of post-traumatic stress disorder since the experience. Both wet their beds, although one has stopped, and both have had nightmares about one security employee in particular, he said.

    “They’re terrified, horrified. We’ve had to change their medication twice,” he said.

    And what does Wal-Mart corporate have to say?

    Paolucci and Hitchcock e-mailed The Tribune a copy of a letter from a law firm representing Wal-Mart seeking 10 times the retail price of the items the store still claims were shoplifted by Paolucci. The letter states the matter will be dropped if Paolucci submits the $158.40 payment.

    Now this is not the first time that Wal-Mart has been perceived as hostile to gay Americans. In 2007, HRC advised against giving our business to Wal-Mart, and just in April of this year, the CEO signed his name to a petition to ban gay couples from adopting.”

  • Sweetie

    Remember the story about the gay couple with kids that Walmart detailed and harassed, even though they didn’t do anything wrong? It’s like something out of a dystopian novel.

    Wal-Mart bans gay couple for NOT shoplifting
    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/11/07/16449

    The company thinks its above the law, with its thugs on the payroll. And, this is nothing new in American corporate history. Google “Ludlow Massacre”.

  • nicho

    WAL*MART often hires untrained and vicious wanna be cops, who are trained by WAL*MART.

    Do they — or do they get them from a contractor? I can’t imagine WalMart exposing themselves to this kind of liability when they could just contract it out — and them claim immunity from any lawsuit, since the person involved wasn’t employed by them. That’s very common.

  • nicho

    Well, I wasn’t arguing that it was justified or appropriate. The damn things probably cost WalMart about $10. My partner manages a retail store. Their policy is let them take it and get a good description, if you can do it without endangering yourself. It’s only stuff, for crying out loud.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    For the record: excessive force is an unspoken in-store policy as is kidnapping.by WAL^MART. Accounts like the above are nor the exception, but the rule. Worse WAL*MART always dumps the responsibility on individual security members, who are encouraged in violent intersession and are left hanging out to drive. WAL*MART never takes responsibility for such events—even deaths. The same policy holds for accidents involving customers or employees—just dig into the records. It’s all there. Years ago when I was working as a community health advocate I became involved in a case concerning an HIV patient, who had mild dementia, whose decision making was impaired. He picked up a video game, opened it up and then put it in his basket, somewhere along the line he jettisoned it somewhere else in the store. When he went to pay for the other things two security guards attacked him in the parking lot, beat him to a pulp, and dragged him into a security room, handcuffed him, and ruffed him up for four hours, before calling the police. The video was not in his shopping bag, on his person so they searched the grounds around. the parking lot. They found nothing. He was charged with shop lifting. When the court got wind of it, discovery demanded security film, which WAL*MART claimed showed the incident—-but it had mysteriously disappeared. The case was dropped. What happened above is typical and not unusual. WAL*MART often hires untrained and vicious wanna be cops, who are trained by WAL*MART. They have a virtual army militia. States are beginning to wake up and impose regulated standards . WAL*MART is evil to the core. In a turn of karma, now that corporations are declared ‘people’ it might be possible to sue them as individuals at least in civil courts for civil rights violations or manslaughter. But, don’t hold your breath. It is a company policy to fight every suit with the massive wealth of the company. There are literally hundreds of internet groups detailing WAL*MART’s terrible record and thousands of criminal and civil suits against them. DO NOT SHOP at HELL_MART>

  • Naja pallida

    And then it is on you to prove you were justified in said action. I think you would find that most of those cases do not have good outcomes. Anyway, in this particular case, I don’t think anyone could claim that deadly force was the appropriate response… nor even attempting to detain someone who was fighting back when they could have simply followed him to his car, taken down his license number, and let law enforcement do their job.

  • nicho

    but laying a hand on anyone, even if they are stealing from you, is assault.

    Not really — citizens arrest is allowed in 49 of the 50 states. In California, you can even break into a house to arrest someone.

  • Naja pallida

    “Not allowed” makes it sound like company policy is all that matters, but laying a hand on anyone, even if they are stealing from you, is assault. You might deem it justified, but there are many, many court cases that show it is rarely legally considered so – especially when it comes to shoplifting where there is absolutely no risk of bodily harm to the victim to defend against with force. Detaining someone against their will is also the purview of law enforcement, not private individuals or corporations, so again, illegal. Any employee engaging in illegal activity at behest of the company, could make the company liable for damages. Not that we hold companies responsible for anything in this country, but that’s the theory.

  • AdmNaismith

    ‘The “perp” had to come with Loss Prevention to their office, but only of
    their own decision, until the police arrived to prosecute.’

    And that’s fine with me. Considering the way corporations treats their employees, I don’t need them taking on actual law enforcement duties.

  • GrayBeard

    So weird. I just did a vid on this very subject. I worked in Customer Service, & can tell so many stories of people stealing, trying to steal, and scamming us, or trying to scam us. When it came to actually physically stopping the “perp” this was NOT allowed, not even the Loss Prevention folks could do this. The “perp” had to come with Loss Prevention to their office, but only of their own decision, until the police arrived to prosecute. If your interested in my vid, let me know. I’m not going to attach the link, as I don’t want to be a spammer. Peace.- GrayBeard

  • RicoSoavarooski

    Yes; it’s too bad we don’t have a 911 call which the local NBC affiliate could edit for clarification, er, obfuscation!

  • RicoSoavarooski

    Without more facts it is not possible to conclude how the initial confrontation escalated, who was responsible for the subsequent death, how the charges (if any) will be made by the district attorney.

    But that won’t deter anyone; Jesse Jackson was willing as late as the end of March to tell a rally that
    Trayvon Martin had been “shot in the back.”

    But there’s no way that chasing a shoplifter with two dvd players should reach this result in the first place, even if it turns out the thief violently resisted and essentially brought about his own demise — and for what?!

  • A_nonymoose

    The way I understand it, the guard was not the one responsible for the choke hold. Just for clarification.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001426939279 Carl Kerstann

    Sounds like excessive force to me. Getting involved in a fight over such a minor theft is uncalled for. Choking someone over it is manslaughter at least.

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