Alleged Shoplifter Dies After Being Detained At Walmart

A man in California died last Friday shortly after Walmart loss-prevention staff detained him on suspicion of shoplifting.

According to reports, store employees detained the man around 1 p.m. PT on Friday, believing he had stolen clothing and mouthwash.

“While being detained in the parking lot, the suspect began fighting with the loss prevention personnel,” a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy tells the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. “When the [police] officers arrived, the suspect was being restrained by loss prevention officers… police officers saw the suspect appeared to be in medical distress and called for paramedics to respond.”

Police took the man to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

As of yesterday, the cause of death — or whether the incident was in any way a factor — is still to be determine by an autopsy.

A Walmart rep gave the Tribune the following statement:

Any time there’s a loss of life, it’s a sad situation… We don’t know all of the facts right now, but we are cooperating with law enforcement and providing any information we have to assist in the investigation. The associates involved in the altercation are currently suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. We have crisis counselors available for associates who may be emotionally affected by this in any way.

Man dies after being detained by security for shoplifting at Walmart [SGVTribune.com]
Man detained for shoplifting dies at Calif Walmart [AP]

Comments

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  1. crispyduck13 says:

    Do loss prevention officers carry any kind of weapon? Overall this whole things sucks.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Probably not. But as I have said many times before, and scientific studies have proven, things like physcially restraining someone have killed far more suspects/people, by multiple magnitudes, than pepper spray or a TASER ever has.

      • Southern says:

        Exactly.. Some people may have an allergic reaction to pepper spray, and some may have heart attacks due to tasing, but both of those are (extremely) rare.

        However, a 180lb security guard standing on your neck tends to lead to complications, especially when you’re probably hyperventilating over the fact that oh crap, you’re about to goto jail. :)

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          It’s not even “standing on necks”. Just the act of being restrained causes physical and physiological stress on the body that can aggravate existing conditions and cause death. People have died with no external trauma indications on their body, and autopsies have found that the deaths were contributed to by the stress and pre-existing conditions.

      • Bladerunner says:

        Can you cite one, please?

      • Bladerunner says:

        Can you cite one, please?

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Yes, they carry their sharp wit and good judgement on their hip.

    • shanoaravendare says:

      Not at Walmarts in PA, other states I don’t know about.

    • Jawaka says:

      Not generally but sometimes the shoplifters do.

  2. FreshPorcupineSalad says:

    A man’s life is a small price to pay for the safety of Wal-Mart’s mouthwash.

    • Jawaka says:

      I agree. If he’d never fought with the loss prevention personnel he’d still be alive. If he was innocent the cops which were on the way would have straightened things out.

      • sagodjur says:

        If you’re innocent, you have nothing to fear…except having your time wasted, your rights violated, or your guilt assumed until you prove otherwise.

        I’m not saying that this guy was innocent or guilty. But you can’t categorically say that bad things don’t happen to innocent people due to misunderstandings.

        “It’s not my fault that Buttle’s heart condition didn’t appear on Tuttle’s file!”

        • iesika says:

          Even if you’re innocent, physically struggling with store security is a pretty bad idea, and a good way to get both injury and a jail sentence. Wait it out. There are better (legal, not-physically-dangerous, not likely to increase jail time) ways to get your own back, after the fact.

          • Lt. Coke says:

            ‘Under Medical Distress’ – what if he was delirious as a result of his illness? He could’ve irrationally stolen goods, been acting crazy, and LP officers restrained him rather than calling for an ambulance.

          • Difdi says:

            Depends on the degree of detention. A LP guy coming up and asking you to stick around is a very different thing from being gang-tackled in the parking lot by half a dozen random people.

            I simply don’t steal, ever. So I have a pretty good faith belief that the store lacks reasonable suspicion of shoplifting. Therefore if someone tries to detain me in error, I know that the confusion on their part will be easily resolved. I am rarely in any kind of hurry, so I can certainly wait around for the matter to be cleared up. But if the store employee starts off with maximum force, you’d better believe that I won’t meekly accept my beating, I’ll defend myself.

            Being killed by accident during a beating because the LP guy gave a vague description over the radio is no comfort to the guy who gets killed.

  3. That guy. says:

    So…it sounds like when the police arrived, they saw he was in medical distress. I’d imagine it didn’t kick in right when they arrived, and that he showed signs of distress leading up to their arrival. This makes me think the Wal-Mart employees could have (or should have) seen him in medcial distress, and if they got him to the hospital when he first showed those signs, he might still be alive.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      There are many things that can happen with the human body that even if McDreamy, House, Dr. Killdare, George Clooney, Hawkeye Pierce, where standing right there, they couldn’t save you if they had been a minute earlier. As for medical distress, you can be having trouble breathing which can look A LOT like you are out of breath because you just ran away from the LPO’s. It’s only after you don’t catch your breath a minute or two later, after the adrenaline runs out, that someone might have a clue that you are in distress.

    • Random Lurker says:

      Law enforcement (and EMT’s, which I did for some time) get a level of training that security guards don’t. There are a number of medical conditions that mimic belligerance or drunkeness and could be easily misunderstood by someone without that training. Diabetic shock, for example, is often mistaken for drunkeness because it causes slurred speech and other similar symptoms.

      I’m guessing the man had a serious issue the security guards didn’t recognize, and it was too late for treatment by the time authorities arrived.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Why should the Walmart employees worry? their job is just to hold on to alleged thieves, not take care of them.

    • kobresia says:

      I’d also wonder if they might’ve thought he was faking symptoms in hopes of escaping arrest, and blew them off. The worst time to have a heart attack and grab one’s chest in agony is right after the LPO folks have announced the po-po are on their way.

    • Starrion says:

      And this would be why so many of the big box stores don’t want their LPO’s chasing people.

      Imagine what the lawsuit for “OMG WALMART killed my husband/boyfriend over mouthwash!” will pay out.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        They usually don’t want regular employees chasing them. LPOs usually are permitted to. They sometimes have more specialized training, but this probably wasn’t an ordinary situation. :/

    • Jawaka says:

      The story said that the suspect was fighting with the loss prevention officer. If you get a heart attack trying to attack a person you really can’t blame the person that was being attacked. Basically a stupid person died while doing something stupid.

      • Plasmafox says:

        How dare he assault that poor LPO by placing the LPO’s arm around his neck and strangling himself! Not to mention the damage potentially inflicted on the poor rent-a-cop’s fist when the deceased recklessly rammed his face into it!

        How *dare* he do that.

    • Plasmafox says:

      And the fact that the LPOs did not recognize signs of distress proves they were not trained to safely subdue or restrain a suspect, yet chose to do so anyway. It’s common sense that restraining someone can cause bodily injury. Negligent homicide.

  4. Overheal says:

    Walmart, you need to STOP KILLING YOUR CUSTOMERS OVER PETTY THEFT.

    ALLEGED Petty Theft at that!

    What the hell are they teaching their staff to do?

    • That guy. says:

      Well…he won’t shop lift from them again.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      I agree that killing him, or even forcibly detaining him was out of line. However he was not a customer, he was a thief. Customers exchange cash for goods. Thieves just take it.

      • druidicawen says:

        Nowhere in any of the reports does it say he actually had stolen property on his person. Suspicion and allegations are not proof of a crime.

        • Southern says:

          If he actually started a fight though, my sympathy meter is going to drop drastically.

          I may stand there and argue with you about my “receipt” until I’m blue in the face, but I know if I take a swing at somebody, any repercussions of doing so are going to be entirely my fault.

          • Plasmafox says:

            If they pursued and detained him, he didn’t start a damn thing. It may only have been a firm grip on the arm and a “sir, you’re going to have to come with me,” but it’s unlikely he would have sought out a physical altercation if escape had been an option.

        • dangermike says:

          But it can’t be any more than suspicion and allegation until several months later when a courtt convicts him. If they had officers chasing and detaining him, there is a strong likelihood he was observed on surveillance monitors performing the acts he is alleged to have been performing. Granted, it’s entirely possible the people witnessing the act were mistaken but that’s exactly what trials are for. It could be construed as libel or slander to omit the “alleged” and “accused” terms until after a conviction occurs.

    • kobresia says:

      The only reason he was an “ALLEGED” shoplifter was because he hadn’t been taken before a judge yet. He was caught red-handed, but it’s potentially defamatory if they don’t use a touchy-feely qualifier until an actual conviction is added to the rap sheet. The loss prevention folks are likely not going to summon the cops to arrest someone unless they’re damn certain the person was really shoplifting.

      • dush says:

        It’s not touchy-feely. It’s called presumption of innocence. And it’s a wonderful thing. Hopefully you’re never in a position to need to find that out.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He steals your mouthwash, you send him to the morgue! That’s The Wal-Mart way!

      That’s what they’re teaching them.

    • Jawaka says:

      How about shoplifters stop killing themselves over petty theft. I think that it’s fair to place a majority of the blame here on the idiot who decided to shoplift in the first place.

      • Overheal says:

        You don’t even know that he actually stole anything. It wouldn’t be the first time they detained someone who didn’t steal anything and it wouldn’t be the last.

  5. KeithIrwin says:

    Obviously, I don’t know the cause of death, but the most likely cause from the description is that their method of restraining him either cut off his air supply (holds around the neck) or prevented him from inhaling and exhaling properly (sitting on him). This is why you should never restrain someone without proper training.

    Also, in most states, laws do not allow store personnel to restrain people as a result of their shoplifting. When the police restrain someone, that’s an arrest. When you do, that’s kidnapping and/or assault which is not an appropriate response to shoplifting. You can take their picture and write down their license plate. You can even follow them, but you can’t legally forcibly detain someone in most states.

    • ReaperRob says:

      The company I work for won’t even let LP follow them out of the store, we have to get the police there while the shoplifter is in the store.

    • zigziggityzoo says:

      In Michigan, the law explicitly exempts storekeepers and their employees. They’re explicitly allowed to detain for theft or fraud for as long as it takes to hand over to police (whereas the general public can only arrest someone for felonies).

      But if they’re wrong, they’re not immune from unlawful detention lawsuits.

      • Free Legal Advice! says:

        Same in Florida. It’s called shopkeeper’s privilage. They can detain for suspected shoplifting, but are not imune for suits for wrongful arrest.

        • atomix says:

          Oddly, Florida and Michigan share a lot of laws in common. A lot of really weird laws, too. I’m not sure what the common theme is between these to disparate states?

          • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

            Maybe with Michigan being America’s hand and Florida being the crazy wang? They would seem to go together…

    • AngryK9 says:

      My girlfriend likes to be restrained. She….oh wait, that isn’t what you meant. Nevermind!

    • damicatz says:
      • Velvet Jones says:

        You’re confusing restrain with detain. Two different works, both in the English language and in eyes of the law.

    • GrimJack says:

      If you obviously don’t know the cause of death, how can you tell from the description what the most likely cause was? It said that he was being restrained, no details. If it said “when the police arrived, they found the suspect on the ground with a LPO kneeling on his neck” I’d be more likely to agree with you. I could be almost any pre-existing condition (bad heart is the one that comes to mind) aggravated by the stress of the situation that caused it.

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    Any time there’s a loss of life, it’s a sad situation… We don’t know all of the facts right now, but we do have steaks, soda, ketchup and chips on sale for all your Memorial Day barbecuing needs.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      That does it! Promoting a Memorial Day sale a week late? I’m suing for emotional distress!

      • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

        And don’t you begin to think your defense was that you were just getting an early start to next year’s holidays; I’d still claim emotional distress due to excessive Memorial Day creep!

  7. dolemite says:

    My tip to criminals: any time you break the law, there is a chance someone may die. Whether you speed away from a traffic citation or break into someone’s home when you think they aren’t there, someone could get killed. And it would be a shame to die over a $100 ticket or a silver chain necklace.

    • That guy. says:

      …so make sure it’s a big ticket item!

    • PadThai says:

      Anytime you do anything there’s a chance someone could die.

      • dolemite says:

        Yeah, but your chances go up drastically when you start running from police or sneaking around someone’s house in the middle of the night or run out of a store into a parking lot with stolen goods and a bunch of people chasing you into traffic.

    • Hartwig says:

      I would add my tip to LPO’s. While you are dedicated to your job, the company will throw you under the bus if anything were to occur because of your efforts to stop a crime. So don’t become over zealous, and if the criminal chooses to fight let him go, they won’t fire you for following their policies, but trying to go above and beyond is not a good idea in the eyes of your employer.

  8. Marlin says:

    Problem is in cases like this Wal-mart says don’t chase or get inline of a person “suspected” of stealing. Yet if you don’t then another manager ask why you did not try to stop them…

  9. ovalseven says:

    That last line seems unnecessary. It’s like saying, “We may have played a part in his death, but we want to be sure that none of us feels bad about it”.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually this isn’t unusual no matter what the cause of death, since even if they find that the store employees were in no way responsible for the death it can still be hard for many to deal with.

      We’ve reached a point where we have pet psychiatrists and even give our pets prozac, so why exactly should we be surprised that counselors are brought in after something like this?

      • ovalseven says:

        I understand that, but I don’t see any point in mentioning it in a press release.

        Walmart may have played a part in a man’s death. It’s arrogant to think the public is immediately concerned with the mental health of their employees.

        It’s like saying to someone, “I ran over your dog, but don’t be sad. My family and I will recover from the trauma”.

  10. Terron says:

    Somebody died while this shoplifter was committing a crime. He should be charged with murder, his corpse incarcerated and his estate heavily fined.

  11. sirillium says:

    Does Walmart have crisis counselors available for family members of the victim who may be emotionally affected by this in any way?

    • Overheal says:

      You already know the answer to that: do provide them counseling would be to admit fault.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Does Consumerist have crisis counselor’s? I need one after reading this story.

    • dolemite says:

      Well, most of them were heavily disappointed they weren’t having free steak for dinner that night.

  12. Clyde Barrow says:

    “Any time there’s a loss of life, it’s a sad situation”.

    Wow,,really? This rep should get the “dumbass award” for 2012.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      “The man who was kidnapping children is dead, so we should all feel sad that he is gone.”

    • George4478 says:

      What do you expect the rep to say? “He was a thief; no big loss.”

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      This statement is a heck of a lot better than B&N’s presumptuously assy “We believe we acted appropriately” statement last week when they kicked that guy out of the store. Management hasn’t had time to assess the situation, so “it sucks, we’re investigating, we’re cooperating, we’re taking care of our employees” seems uncharacteristically classy and reasonable.

  13. PadThai says:

    Ugh, I’m about *this* close to giving up on walmart totally (again)

  14. kcvaliant says:

    Please.. have you consumerists not seen people of walmart website??

    The sheer fact he resisted the LPO and exercise probably killed him.

    If he is innocent, it is sad and tragic.

    If he did it, meh shit happens.

  15. kcvaliant says:

    Please.. have you consumerists not seen people of walmart website??

    The sheer fact he resisted the LPO and exercise probably killed him.

    If he is innocent, it is sad and tragic.

    If he did it, meh shit happens.

  16. Velifer says:

    Ohio keeps looking better and better. Here, merchants can’t search you, take property from you, or use undue restraints. Maybe you lefty coastal types could learn how a REAL socialist nanny state that protects vicious criminals is supposed to work!

  17. Moniker Preferred says:

    The shoplifting is alleged.

    The death is real enough, but whether it’s Wal-Mart’s fault is also an allegation, if that.

    So far, it’s even, so lighten up all you teeth-gnashers and wailers. For all you know, the guy died of a cocaine overdose.

  18. Here to ruin your groove says:

    Thievery is against the law and may cost you your life. Think it through before you decide to steal. It may just save your life.

  19. Northern Lights says:

    Hopefully this isn’t a result of the actions or negligence of Walmart (or the police) and is instead just a tragic series of events with nobody at fault. Condolences to his family.

  20. oldwiz65 says:

    Walmart doesn’t really give a rats tushie as to whether shoplifters live or die as long as they stop the thefts. Wonder how badly the “loss prevention officers” beat the poor alleged shoplifter? Do they carry mace? Rubber hoses? clubs? Are they trained by thugs from the streets? Or are they thugs from the streets working at Walmart?

  21. Can't Buy a Thrill says:

    They should change their slogan….
    ‘Save money, Live better or shoplift and die quicker’

  22. ellemdee says:

    “We have crisis counselors available for associates who may be emotionally affected by this in any way.”

    …and we will be billing the family of the deceased for the clothes and mouthwash.

  23. skakh says:

    So Walmart employees now are authorized to detain people, even outside of the store on suspicion. Truthfully, I don’t think I would allow a Walmart employee to detain me for any reason. Just one more reason I continue to continue to avoid Walmart.

    No person should die for suspicion or petty theft for that matter, contrary to what some people seem to believe is acceptable.

  24. Velkyr says:

    This would not happen in Canada. Private Security (Loss prevention, club security, other security officers that are not considered peacekeepers) are not legally allowed to touch you. In reality, they have only a little bit of power, 90% of which comes from people’s misconceptions on what security guards are allowed to do, and the other 10% being banning you from a club, store or event.

    If a guard touches you while in uniform, they can be charged with assault and lose their security license. If they keep you in the back room against your will (I.E: Using physical force to place you there, refuses to let you leave) they can be charged with forcible confinement. In that case they would more than lose their license.

    Sad that the U.S places civilian security above regular people in terms of what they can do. If the guys restraining him weren’t security, they would have been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

  25. Velkyr says:

    This would not happen in Canada. Private Security (Loss prevention, club security, other security officers that are not considered peacekeepers) are not legally allowed to touch you. In reality, they have only a little bit of power, 90% of which comes from people’s misconceptions on what security guards are allowed to do, and the other 10% being banning you from a club, store or event.

    If a guard touches you while in uniform, they can be charged with assault and lose their security license. If they keep you in the back room against your will (I.E: Using physical force to place you there, refuses to let you leave) they can be charged with forcible confinement. In that case they would more than lose their license.

    Sad that the U.S places civilian security above regular people in terms of what they can do. If the guys restraining him weren’t security, they would have been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

  26. markvii says:

    This illustrates how corporations have more rights than individuals. In Michigan as a citizen, I cannot use force to protect my property.

  27. SeattleSeven says:

    Shouldn’t the headline be “Wal-Mart security staff kills alleged shoplifter” ?

    • raybury says:

      Nope. Not only did the police spokeswoman quoted in the story at http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/06/alleged-wal-mart-shoplifter-dies-after-fight-with-store-security-.html indicate the “Jose Marcos Picazo, 41, of Azusa, walked out of a Covina store Friday afternoon without paying for merchandise…” but also “added that ‘nothing’ related to store security practices ‘appeared to be out of compliance.’”

      The LA Times fish wrap maintains the practice of using “alleged” and indeed police arrest, much less police comments, are not the same as a conviction. And “nothing appeared to be out of compliance” is not the most definitive statement in the history of mankind. But that police would even go that far indicates that, no, we should not say he was killed by Walmart.

      I worked at department stores for a few years, and had mixed impressions of security personnel and their targets. But on private property, including their parking lot, they have a lot of leeway to forcibly detain suspected shoplifters, and shoplifters have a habit of being deceptive in a variety of ways.

  28. raybury says:

    In addition to the LA Time article I cited in an earlier post, more information from Fox News at http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/05/authorities-id-dead-shoplifting-suspect-in-ca/. Critics of the source will be glad I read between the lines.

    Caveat: Nothing tells us that this person was actually shoplifting. If he was, and even given that many criminals will fake illness in an attempt to escape, it is certainly incumbent on store security to summon medical help if it seems to be needed. My impression is that the situation developed quickly and that the police arrive quickly, such that I am reluctant to either place blame on the store security personnel for not summoning medical help before police arrive, or even to accuse them of missing or being unresponsive to signs they should have seen.

    Phew. Anyway, this guy’s family shouldn’t sue me, but in 100 cases like this I would think that in over 95 such cases:

    - Someone who “has struggled” with alcohol and drugs telling his mother he is clean and sober happens about 20 times for every time it is actually true.

    - This goes double for someone getting a “government assistance check.”

    - His mother ruminating that, haven gotten his government assistance check, he had no need to steal, really is a waste of ink. At the severe risk of making an overstatement, shoplifting is about not having enough money only slightly more often than rape is about sex, i.e. almost never.

    Let the police conduct their investigation; I’m not convicting either party myself.