Graham Gentles jumped off the roof of a hotel to his death days after he was humiliated in front of co-workers, and now the mother of the 22-year-old is suing Target, claiming that they are at fault for his death.
Gentles worked as a cashier at the retail chain’s store in Pasadena, California. Shortly before his death, he was embarrassed by the store’s management and made to go through what a family’s attorney calls a “walk of shame,” a ritual in which he was paraded around the store in handcuffs.
Graham Gentles was then fired by Target, and three days later, he jumped to his death from the roof of the Courtyard Marriott in Monrovia.
Gentles mother, Virginia, said the incident left him deeply depressed.
“The only thing he said to me at that moment was, ‘Mom this is the worst day of my life,'” Virginia Gentles said.
Virginia Gentles is now filing a lawsuit against Target claiming false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“I don’t want any other mother to have to go through what I’ve gone through,” Virginia Gentles said. “This is my only child.”
On his last day of work, Graham was met by police and store security when he arrived. At the direction of two members of the store’s management, the police led him to a back office in handcuffs, in full view of other store employees.
Gentles was eventually released and was never charged with a crime.
“Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and store customers. Mr. Gentles had no idea why he was being arrested,” the complaint says.
The lawsuit claims that the ritual was meant to humiliate those suspected of stealing, whether the store has proof or not.
“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target,” the suit states. “The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”
The incident was made worse by the fact that Gentles suffered from Aspergers, which made him more sensitive to criticism.
“The nature of Aspergers he tended to hyper focus and so he was very hyper focused on this,” attorney Patrick McNicholas said. “He was hyper focused on his loss and it was a perfect storm which resulted in his death.”
Target has responded to the lawsuit, saying it was not a “walk of shame” but giving few more details. The store expressed sympathy to the family of Graham Gentles.