DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A police investigation is under way after a man suspected of shoplifting from a local Walmart died during his confrontation with store employees.
According to a police report obtained by Channel 2 Action News, the incident happened at the Walmart on Fairington Road in Lithonia. The police report said that about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a middle aged man was caught shoplifting two DVD players.
He exited the front door of the store and three employees caught him in the parking lot, where a physical altercation took place while they detained him.
When police arrived, they found the employees on top of the man. The officer put the man in handcuffs and said he noticed there was no resistance from him.
The officer had the employees get off the man, and noticed the man was unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth.
Paramedics came and transported the man to DeKalb Medical-Hillandale Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The police report said one of those Walmart employees had placed the man in a choke hold, but the cause and manner of death will be determined by a medical examiner.
The Walmart employees involved in the case are identified as Phille Roberts, Michael Burton and Jaiviere Pruitt.
Channel 2's Amanda Cook received the following statement from Walmart spokeswoman Dianna Gee:
“This is truly a sad situation. We don’t know all of the facts right now. We’re in the process of working with law enforcement to determine all of the facts and cooperating and providing any information we have to assist in the investigation," Gee said.
“The two associates involved in the incident are currently suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. The security officer involved will no longer be providing services to us," she said.
“Our associates are trained that the safety of our customers and our associates is our first priority. No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life. Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk," added Gee. "That being said, this is still an active investigation and we’re working with police to provide any assistance."
Gee continued, saying officials are in the process of conducting a full internal review, and if it's determined that Walmart policy was not followed, officials will take the "appropriate action at the appropriate time."