November 27, 2012

Shoplifting suspect's wife: He didn't have to die

The shoplifting suspect died after a fight with security personnel outside an Atlanta Walmart.

Jacob Jordan / The Associated Press

ATLANTA — The wife of a shoplifting suspect who died after he was wrestled to the ground outside a suburban Atlanta Walmart said Tuesday that store employees used too much force to subdue him.

Vidal Calloway, 37, died Sunday after he was taken down in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Lithonia and put into a choke hold by a security guard as the employees waited on authorities, according to a police report. Store workers accused Calloway, an ex-convict, of trying to steal two Blu-ray players, which also play DVDs.

"I don't think that it should've happened," Calloway's wife Fatimah Calloway said. "He didn't deserve to die over a DVD player."

About 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a store manager asked Calloway for a receipt near the door and he ran out of the store, according to the police report. The manager, Michael Burton, grabbed Calloway and slammed him down to the ground, but Calloway fought back, punching Burton in the face, neck and chest, according to the police report. The security guard, Jaiviere Pruitt, rushed Calloway and the three men fell to the ground. Pruitt put Calloway into a headlock because he was still fighting, police said.

The guard "told the suspect to tap when he can't breathe," store employee Phille Roberts, who also helped hold Calloway down, told officers, according to the police report.

Emergency medics tried to treat Calloway, but he was unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Detectives were awaiting autopsy results to determine exactly how Calloway died.

Burton and Roberts have been suspended with pay and Pruitt, a contractor working security with the store, will no longer work there, according to Bentonville, Ark.,-based Wal-Mart Inc.

"Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk," Wal-Mart Inc. spokeswoman Dianna Gee said. "That being said, this is still an active investigation and we're working with police to provide any assistance."

Calloway had a criminal record that includes shoplifting, forgery and substance abuse.

Burton and Pruitt did not return telephone calls. A phone number for Roberts could not be immediately located.

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