15 Years In Prison After Cutting The Line At Walmart?

Here’s a strange story from southeast Missouri. Three years ago a college student was waiting in line at Walmart. Her cousin was waiting in another line that was moving faster. The college student, now a teacher who lives in Louisiana, joined her cousin in the “faster” line. This apparently started a confrontation with other customers (and eventually the police) that may cause the woman to spend 15 years in prison.

The AP reports that the shopper facing trial alleges that the entire incident was racially charged. Police reports say that the woman refused to calm down and leave the property, and allegedly kicked one police officer in the shin and split another’s lip while resisting arrest.

The woman claims that she never resisted arrest, but was jumped by angry cops who were “using racial slurs and telling her to go back to the ghetto.”

From the AP:

Ellis’ [The shopper’s] written account to the NAACP describes she and her cousin getting into separate checkout lanes before Ellis switched into the faster-moving line. The woman behind them had placed items on the conveyor belt, and Ellis alleged the woman pushed her when she tried to put her own items down.

Witnesses instead told police that Ellis shoved the woman’s merchandise back, according to court filings.

Ellis wrote that a security officer and manager were called over and that although Ellis said she wanted to pay, the manager yelled at her to leave the store. Police were called and arrived.

Officers eventually followed her to the parking lot, she said, using racial slurs and telling her to go back to the ghetto. As her aunt and uncle drove into the parking lot, Ellis said, the officers “jumped” on her even though she said she was not resisting.

She’s apparently been offered plea deals but has refused them on principle, preferring instead to face trial and possible prison time.

Leaving alleged racism/police brutality/possible extended prison sentence out of it, what’s the right way to handle line-cutters? Is it cool for someone to join their friend or relative in a faster moving line? If not, what should you do when it happens? If she was willing to pay, should she have been forced to leave the store?

Arrest at Walmart leads to charges of racism [AP]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.