Witness: Target Worker Wrestled, Choked Female Customer

Yesterday, Cherie was shopping at a Target in Cincinnati when she claims she witnessed a Target loss prevention associate “brutally detain, wrestle, strike and choke a shopper for more than three minutes.”

According to Cherie, a female shopper was confronted near the electronic anti-theft gates inside the store. “Immediately, the employee placed her hands on the woman’s shoulders and began forcefully pushing up against her trying to bring her to the ground,” she recalls.

Continues Cherie:

The shopper, larger than the loss prevention associate, began to push back and started to scream at the employee because she appeared to be honestly confused about what was going on. The loss prevention associate, dressed in all black, never identified herself as an employee of Target or shared with the shopper why she was restraining her. While both women continued to push and strike each other, the shopper asked for help and for someone to call a manager or the police. The employee finally communicated with the shopper and told her that the manager was on his way. Repeatedly the shopper asked for the employee’s name and for her to stop.

At this point the Target employee violently pinned the shopper against the interior doors and began to choke the woman. The shopper never exited the building and did not have any items on her body at all during this melee. All her actions, including striking back at the other woman, were in self-defense. She was wearing a thin, zebra-print slipdress, so concealing items would not have been an easy feat and would have fallen out during the intense struggle. The items in question were several feet away still in the Target shopping basket.

I asked my partner to take my 6-year-old daughter out to the car and wait for me because I felt as though I had to do something because the situation was wrong on so many levels. After watching the employee start to choke the woman, I was the only one to step forward and tell the Target employee to stop. It was evident to several witness and myself that the actions of the loss prevention associate were clearly wrong.

Startled by my intervention, both women, still with their hands on each other, moved through the first set of interior doors into the area directly in front of the exterior exit doors. Again, the employee began to violently restrain the shopper and the woman continued to defend herself. Eventually, their fight spilled through the exterior doors and continued onto the sidewalk.

A few moments later, a store manager came upon the scene and told his employee to let go of the woman. She did so immediately and the shopper stopped defending herself. The shopper continuously asked for the name of the loss prevention employee and the manager and then started to yell that she was going to sue. She told him that she was being choked and hurt and he only said that the police are on their way. For a few minutes, the manager, the loss prevention employee, and the shopper continued to argue with each other while I watched and waited to speak with the manager.

Cherie attempted to take photos with her phone, but was spotted by the loss prevention associate, who she says told her to stop and not to get involved. The above image is the only one she was able to snap.

“I walked up to the manager and told him that I witnessed his employee choke and strike this woman,” she says. “He bluntly told me that he didn’t care and if I had something to say to save it for the police and to stay out of the matter.”

The police arrived on the scene a few minutes later but Cherie says no one was arrested and the officer would not take her statement.

Consumerist contacted the local police chief, who had a different version of events:

Someone from the Target store called for the police to respond to the store because a shoplifting suspect was “struggling” with loss prevention officer, who was a female, approximately 5’0″ tall and 100 lbs. The officers were dispatched to a “Theft in Progress,” “security struggling with suspect.” While officers were enroute to the store, the suspect broke away from the female loss prevention officer and fled the store. The suspect then got into a van, fled the lot and was not located.

Deputies from the Hamilton County Sheriff’Office and officers from Colerain Police arrived and attempted to learn what had occurred. As that was going on, a female approached a Colerain supervisor and told him what she witnessed along with her feelings about security being able to place hands on persons suspected of committing a theft offense in their store. The supervisor advised the female that the security officer had the same rights as any individual to defend themselves when they are being assaulted. The female disagreed. A second unrelated person approached the supervisor and told the supervisor that they witnessed the incident and the store security/loss prevention didn’t do anything wrong in the handling of the shoplifter.

This incident occurred after 7:30 pm and Colerain officers secure from their duties at 8 pm. Because of the late hour, the investigation of the incident was handled by a deputy from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The Colerain supervisor passed the information from the female to the Sheriff’s Deputy and because the threat was gone and there were no suspects still on scene, he left the store to secure for the shift. The store security/loss prevention officer also spoke to the female who felt the incident was not handled correctly. The store security officer advised the female to contact the Target Corporate Office to speak to them about the incident if she felt it was not handled correctly.

We did contact Target HQ in Minnesota to ask what their policy is regarding use the use of force against suspected shoplifters. They replied: “At Target, the safety and security of our guests and team members is our highest priority. We aim to provide all our guests with a superior shopping experience. Target has an apprehension policy coupled with comprehensive training for our team members. We take guest input seriously and are looking into this matter.”

A rep for Target said that if you see a loss prevention associate using excessive force, you should go to the Guest Service desk and ask to speak to the manager. In cases like this — where the manager was directly involved in the argument — they suggest you e-mail Guest.Relations@target.com