Lithonia, GA. Suspected Shoplifter Choked To Death In Wal-Mart Parking Lot
Buried in the recent news about Wal-Mart and Black Friday controversies, was the story out of Lithonia, Georgia, where another "suspected" shoplifter ended up paying with his life for shopping at Wal-Mart.
Sprawl-Busters has disseminated a number of similar stories of Wal-Mart shoppers who died after allegedly stealing from the giant retailer. Despite the company's instructions to its 'asset protection' staff not to physically challenge alleged shoplifters, these stories sometimes end in death face-down in the parking lot.
According to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a "middle-aged man," who later was identified as 37 year old Vidal Calloway, was accused of trying to steal two DVD players from a Wal-Mart in Lithonia, Georgia , a suburb 15 miles east of Atlanta.
The confrontation took place at 1:30 AM. Based on the newspaper account, the suspect left the store "through the front doors and was walking through the parking lot when two employees and a contract security guard caught and subdued him. When police arrived at the scene, they found the three workers on top of the suspected thief."
The police officers went to handcuff the man, but "they noticed he was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead shortly thereafter." Apparently the Wal-Mart asset protection staff had not noticed that in subduing the man, they had killed him.
Although the cause of death was not immediately released, the DeKalb County police told the newspaper that Wal-Mart's security guard "may have placed the man in a chokehold."
After the deadly incident, Wal-Mart suspended two employees -- with pay -- but the security guard was fired. "No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life," a Wal-Mart spokesperson said in a press statement. "Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk." The Wal-Mart official admitted that "several facts remain murky," the Journal Constitution said.
A couple of days after this incident, the Associated Press ran a follow up story in which Mr. Calloway's wife charged that store employees had used too much force to subdue her husband. "I don't think that it should've happened," Calloway's wife Fatimah Calloway told the AP. "He didn't deserve to die over a DVD player."
According to accounts of what happened, Calloway was asked by a store manager to show a receipt when he was near the front door, but the suspect ran out of the store. Wal-Mart's manager then grabbed Calloway and slammed him down to the ground, but Calloway fought back, punching Burton in the face, neck and chest.
Based on the police report, the security guard, rushed Calloway and the three men fell to the ground. The security guard put Calloway into a headlock, and told the suspect, "to tap when he can't breathe." Emergency medics who arrived on the scene found Calloway unresponsive.
The Security Guard was not a Wal-Mart employer, but was working as a private contractor. Wal-Mart confirmed a couple of days later that the security guard had been fired, and that "associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk." The company added: "That being said, this is still an active investigation and we're working with police to provide any assistance."
What you can do: The Associated Press reported that Calloway "had a criminal record that included shoplifting, forgery and substance abuse." None of this, of course, was known to Wal-Mart at the time, and even if they had known of Calloway's background -- the Wal-Mart policy is that associates should not have tried to physically restrain the man. "Disengage" does not mean choking a suspect to death."
Readers are urged to call Wal-Mart Customer Service at 1-800-Walmart with the following message:
"My holiday spirit is dampened by the death of a supsected Shoplifter at your store in Lithonia, Georgia. Why do people have to die over a DVD Player? Is this the dark side of what you mean when you say you will "take care of the customer?" You certainly took care of Vidal Calloway!
I hope that if Wal-Mart learns excessive force was used, that you will terminate the two workers who participated in this three-on-one assault of Mr. Calloway, and make financial restitution to Mrs. Calloway for the needless loss of her husband.
How many more of these parking lot deaths will take place before Wal-Mart makes it clear to all its workforce that people should not lose their lives over DVD players and other cheap Chinese imports?"