If there's anything that Walmart didn't need on Black Friday weekend, it was a jaw-dropping headline about somebody dying in their parking lot after a run-in with a couple of employees. Unfortunately for the big box retailer, that's exactly what happened on early Sunday morning at a store in Lithonia, Georgia.
It's a sad, simple story. An unidentified man allegedly stole two DVD players from the electronics department and left the store through the front door. Two Walmart employees and a contracted security guard chased him into the parking lot. A "physical altercation" took place, and apparently, the security guard put the man in a choke hold. Police arrived soon thereafter to find the three workers on top of the suspected shoplifter who was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. The man was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life," said Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee in a statement. "Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk." She added, "That being said, this is still an active investigation and we're working with police to provide any assistance." Walmart put the two employees on paid leave and fired the security guard.
Regardless of what happens at the end of that investigation, there's no way Walmart is going to come out of this one looking good. It truly sounds like this was a horrible accident, the kind that makes it hard to point fingers or figure out what went wrong. However, this incident also happened as thousands of Walmart workers nationwide were protesting poor treatment by their employers. Are the two things related? Only insofar as it adds up to a ton of bad press for a company long known to promote mass hysteria on Black Friday weekend. It's a problem that people are still dying at their stores, years after warnings signs like the Walmart employee who was trampled to death on Black Friday.
Thank God the new Black Friday trend is online shopping.