The rumpus that is Black Friday shopping ensued as usual over the long holiday weekend, and in fact began early in several regions as stores opened their doors on Thanksgiving. But at a suburban Atlanta Walmart, the madness took a grim turn when a suspected shoplifter died after employees reportedly confronted him and tackled him to the ground.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the middle-aged man, whose identity has not been released, allegedly attempted to shoplift two DVD players from a Walmart in Lithonia, Ga., about 15 miles east of downtown Atlanta, around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. He exited 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. When officers tried to handcuff the man, they noticed he was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
The cause of death has not been determined, but DeKalb County police believe the security guard may have placed the man in a chokehold. Investigators are still awaiting results and further details from the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s office. In the meantime, the two employees have been suspended with pay, and the security guard has been fired.
“No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life,” Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee said Sunday in a statement. “Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk.” She emphasized that it’s still early in the investigation and several facts remain murky.
This isn’t the first time that Black Friday chaos has led to death at a Walmart. In 2008, a 34-year-old employee was trampled to death at a New York location as a bargain-hungry mob poured through the store’s doors.