How much is a life worth at Wal-Mart? Apparently some lives come with an everyday low price. For one man at a Wal-Mart in Texas, his life was worth less than $100. On August 20, 2005, Sprawl-Busters reported that Stacy Driver, 30, of Cleveland, Ohio, a master carpenter and the father of a two year old son, died on August 7, 2005 from a heart attack, while lying face down in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Atascocita, Texas. 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. On December 4, 2005, we reported that the Harris County, Texas Medical Examiner’s Office had 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. The Houston Chronicle reported this week that Wal-Mart, as a result of a settlement, will pay nearly $750,000 to Driver’s family. A lawyer for the family, Brad Frye, told the Chronicle, “One or more people were on his body and he couldn’t breathe. This was a senseless, senseless death.” The case went to mediation before being settled in March, he said. An autopsy showed that Driver had methamphetamine in his system when he was chased into the parking lot by a “loss prevention” employee at the store, pinned to the ground, and suffocated on the hot pavement. Store officials said Driver was suspected of exchanging stolen items to get $94 worth of store credit on a gift certificate, police said. In July, 2006, a Harris County grand jury declined to indict anyone in the case. Driver’s family will get $550,000. His 2 year old son, Ashton, will get $25,000 on his 25th birthday, almost $70,000 on his 30th and $100,000 on his 35th birthday.
Wal-Mart 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, as in the Driver case. The Houston Chronicle says that at the time of his death, Driver was on probation for a theft case regarding gift cards at another Wal-Mart. Driver had signed an agreement to never enter another Wal-Mart store. Regardless of Driver’s personal history, regardless of Driver’s use of drugs, regardless of Driver’s state of mind when he entered the Atascocita Wal-Mart on August 7, 2005, the Wal-Mart employees who pinned him to the hot pavement were not on drugs, and their actions killed Stacy Driver. Regardless of what value you would place on this man’s character, his life was not worth taking over a $94 gift card. Wal-Mart’s lawyer passed questions about the Driver lawsuit to Wal-Mart headquarters, where a company spokesman would not comment on the settlement. Driver’s stepmother, Pat Driver, was quoted by the Houston Chronicle as saying the financial settlement “doesn’t bring him back, it doesn’t help the pain, it doesn’t end anything.” Instead of having his father to hug him on his birthdays, Ashton Driver will get a check from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. At Wal-Mart, they know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. Know the big company by the way it treats little people. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Stacy Driver.”