Stacy Driver, 30, of Cleveland, Ohio, a master carpenter and the father of a two year old son, died on Sunday, August 7th. from a heart attack, while lying face down in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Driver did not stumble or trip, he was pinned down on the burning hot pavement by several Wal-Mart workers who accused him of shop lifting a package of diapers, a pair of sunglasses, a BB gun, and a package of BBs. “When we got there,” a paramedic said, “the man was facedown (in cardiac arrest) with handcuffs behind his back. That’s not indicative of someone given CPR.” A Houston lawyer who witnessed the event, told the Houston Chronicle that one of the Wal-Mart employees had Driver in a choke hold as other employees pinned his body to the ground. “He was begging, ‘Please, I’m burning, let me up,’ ” the eyewitness said. . “He’d push himself up off the blacktop, like he was doing a push-up. About 30 people were saying, ‘Let him up, it’s too hot,’ Another employee brought a rug for Driver to lie on, but one of those holding Driver said he was fine where he was. “After about five minutes, (Driver) said, ‘I’m dying, I can’t breathe, call an ambulance,’ ” the eyewitness lawyer continued. After Driver was handcuffed, the eyewitness said one employee had his knee on the man’s neck and others were putting pressure on his back. “Finally the guy stopped moving” and the employees got off him. They wouldn’t call an ambulance. “I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, he’s not breathing,’ but one guy told me (Driver) was just on drugs. I told them his fingernails were all gray, and finally they called an ambulance.” The Harris County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death. Wal-Mart’s corporate office has refused to discuss its procedures for detaining and using force against shoplifting suspects, but here is their policy: Wal-Mart has an entire Loss Prevention Associate Guide. In that guide, it says that employees should “address the shoplifter politely and directly.” It says that “reasonable force can be employed if the shoplifter refuses to return (to the store).” The policy goes on to clearly state, “If the situation becomes violent, or is deemed potentially dangerous, you should allow the shoplifter to leave.” Wal-Mart also has a policy that it will not prosecute shoplifters is the amount of the theft is under $3.00. But in this case, the Wal-Mart employees may have caused the victim’s death on that parking lot. A spokesman from the National Retail Federation told the Billings, Montana Gazette, “Most retailers have a policy of not going into a chase or getting into a combative fight with someone. Most retailers’ policies would say that if a person becomes combative, let them go. You can tell police, and let the police handle the investigation and follow up.” In this case, four employees in the Atascocita Wal-Mart chased Driver, who was shirtless at the time, wrestled him to the ground and struggled with him on the hot pavement for 10 to 30 minutes, witnesses said. He stopped breathing and later died at a Humble hospital. The Harris County sheriff’s office said employees struggled with Driver for some time before they could get him under control in handcuffs. While in handcuffs, he continued to struggle until he stopped breathing, witnesses said. “If they determine the death was caused by the action of employees, that would obviously take the investigation in a different direction than if he had a heart problem.” An attorney for the Driver family, said the man had no serious health problems.
A Wal-Mart spokesperson declined repeated requests by the media to discuss whether the retailer’s techniques permit use of force against suspects. “We don’t speak publicly about our security measures,” she said. The International Association of Professional Security Consultants recommends that retail security personnel do not strike, tackle, sit on a suspect, or engage in any contact that might cause physical injury. “No merchandise is of such value as to justify physical injury to a suspect,” the association states in its “Best Practices” section of its Web site. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has warned against the dangers of positional asphyxia, and many police departments have re-evaluated use-of-force procedures because some suspects have died in struggles. Despite Wal-Mart’s Loss Prevention policy to let shoplifter leave if the situation becomes “potentially dangerous,” Stacy Driver was not only physically assaulted, but died in a Wal-Mart parking lot over some BBs and a pair of sun glasses. This case will go down as an example of Wal-Mart Worst Practices case. Wal-Mart’s boast is, “Our people make the difference.” In this case, their people made the difference: between life, and death.