When alleged shop-lifter Stacy Driver, 30, died in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Atascocita, Texas, was the deadly force used to subdue him justifiable? A criminal jury may have to decide this case, now that the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Driver’s death was a homicide. An autopsy showed that Driver’s death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and chest compression, with a secondary cause of hyperthermia. A prosecutor in Harris County is expected to present these findings to a grand jury. If an indictment is handed down, a criminal trial will take place, and Wal-Mart will have to endure the bad headlines from this horrific story, which Sprawl-Busters first wrote about on August 20, 2005. A homicide does not necessarily mean a crime was committed, but the details of what Wal-Mart workers did to Driver will not make pleasant reading in the daily newspapers in Texas. “This was an unfortunate event,” a Wal-Mart spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle. “It was very difficult on the Driver family, and also on our Associates.” But no associate died, and no associate’s family was left with a small child and no father. The company says that the workers who pinned Driver to the hot pavement and held him there despite his pleas to be let up, had received “appropriate training.” Driver is not the first suspected shoplifter to die at Wal-Mart for their “crime”, and he probably will not be the last. A suspected Wal-Mart shoplifter died in September, 2001 in Las Vegas, after being pinned face down on the ground, like the Driver case. Driver was accused to stealing a $94 gift card. The struggle during his apprehension in the parking lot lasted roughly half an hour. A Houston lawyer who witnessed the event said Driver begged workers to call an ambulance for him. Driver had a 27 year old wife and a 5 month old son when he died in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
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 did allow Driver to leave — but in a body bag.