Suspected shoplifter dies at metro Walmart

7:24 p.m. Nov. 25

The Black Friday shopping weekend took a tragic turn early Sunday morning when a suspectedshoplifter died while being apprehended by employees and a contract security officer outside a Lithonia Walmart.

Two store employees who helped catch and subdue the suspect before police arrived have been placed on leave. The security officer, who police say may have placed the suspected thief in a choke hold, is no longer working for Walmart, the company said.

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Police say that when they arrived at this Walmart in Lithonia, a man being detained by employees and a contract security officer was unresponsive.

The cause of death had not been determined Sunday evening, and police investigators were awaiting results from the medical examiner.

“No amount of merchandise is worth someone’s life,” Walmart spokesperson Dianna Gee said Sunday in a statement that emphasized that it was early in the investigation. “Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk.”

DeKalb police say the man, whose identity hadn’t been released, took two DVD players from the Walmart at 5401 Fairington Road around 1:30 a.m.

The man, who appeared to be middle aged, exited through the front door but was caught by the two workers and the security officer in the parking lot, where a “physical altercation” took place, according to the police report.

When police arrived, they found the trio on top of the man. An officer who handcuffed the suspected shoplifter detected no resistance from him and ordered the employees off.

Police found the man to be unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and mouth. Emergency units took him to DMC-Hillandale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“This is truly a sad situation,” Gee said. “We don’t know all of the facts right now. We’re in the process of working with law enforcement to deterimine all of the facts and cooperating and providing any information we have to assist in the investigation.

The preliminary police investigation indicates the victim was placed in a choke hold by the security officer. The cause and manner of death is to be determined by the DeKalb Medical Examiner’s office. A spokesman said no information on the victim would be released until Monday.

The two Walmart associates involved in the incident have been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, Gee said, adding that, “The security officer involved will no longer be providing services to us.”

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