Wal-Mart Worker Dies in ‘Black Friday’ Trampling

As seems to happen every year, a trampling incident has occurred as a result of a “Black Friday” sales promotion gimmick. This time, a man has died.

Police tape surrounds a Wal-Mart that was the scene of a deadly stampede. (NY Daily News)

Police tape surrounds a Wal-Mart that was the scene of a deadly stampede. (NY Daily News)

A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said. The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him. “He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”

[…]

A 28-year-old pregnant woman was knocked to the floor during the mad rush. She was hospitalized for observation, police said. Early witness accounts that the woman suffered a miscarriage were unfounded, police said. Three other shoppers suffered minor injuries, cops said.

Before police shut down the store, eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the store clerk’s life.  “They were working on him, but you could see he was dead, said Halcyon Alexander, 29. “People were still coming through.” Only a few stopped. “They’re savages,” said shopper Kimberly Cribbs, 27. “It’s sad. It’s terrible.”

This isn’t even the first such incident at a Wal-Mart.  While people ultimately take the risk of such obvious possibilities into their own hands, store management has some obligation for such predictable results.

Alas, I’ll repeat my prediction of a few years back at a similar but less tragic incident in Richmond involving laptop computers:  “I’m guessing no future Nobel Prize recipients were involved in this incident.”

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    While people ultimately take the risk of such obvious possibilities into their own hands, store management has some obligation for such predictable results.

    Are you saying that the murdered worker bears some responsibility for his death?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Are you saying that the murdered worker bears some responsibility for his death?

    I was thinking more of the yahoos in the crowds who wind up getting hurt. But, sure, if your task is to try to contain an unruly mob, you’ve got to be aware that it’s potentially dangerous.

  3. Triumph says:

    But, sure, if your task is to try to contain an unruly mob, you’ve got to be aware that it’s potentially dangerous.

    Obviously we don’t know *precisely* what happened. But I don’t really see how the employee has much capacity for free choice in this scenario.

    As the story indicates, the guy was temporary maintenance worker–not a security guard or someone who (theoretically) is trained in managing crowds.

    Given what we know about Wal-Mart personnel management, likely the worker was probably ordered by a manager to deal with the crowd as she/he saw throngs of people lining up and the store had no reasonable plan for crowd management. What is the maintenance guy supposed to do? Refuse directions from a boss?

    Sure, the customers who trampled this poor guy should be criminally responsible. But, Wal-Mart bears civil liability for the death given–as you say–the predictable scenario.

    It would be as if a police department sent its custodial staff to negotiate a hostage situation.

    The Daily News had a pretty scary photo from the scene: http://www.nydailynews.com/money/galleries/walmart_stampede_captured_in_pictures/walmart_stampede_captured_in_pictures.html

  4. odograph says:

    For some reason, maybe lower consumer demand, I thought this year would be more mellow.

  5. odograph says:

    BTW, “tried to hold the crowd back” is just one fragment of whatever happened. Too little IMO to decide the evident risk, or the guy’s choices.

    I can imagine someone just unlocking the door and having no way out.

  6. Anderson says:

    “I’m guessing no future Nobel Prize recipients were involved in this incident.”

    Well, definitely not the dead guy. Sharp eye there, JJ.

  7. odograph says:

    As I said above, “‘tried to hold the crowd back’ is just one fragment of whatever happened.” More of the story is out:

    A police statement said shortly after the store’s 5am opening time, shoppers “physically broke down the doors, knocking (the worker) to the ground”.

    A metal portion of the door was crumpled like an accordion.