A Whole Foods security guard allegedly got into a physical altercation with a customer at the organic supermarket chain’s Oakland, California, store on Thursday evening.
The shopper allegedly wound up unconscious and lying in a pool of his own blood in an incident that has drawn a lot of negative attention for Whole Foods on social media.
Whole Foods initially suspended the guard, then permanently removed him, and subsequently cut ties with the security contractor entirely.
Yesterday morning, witness and visitor to Oakland Zoe Marks posted the following description on her Facebook page of what went down at Whole Foods, along with some photos.
“In Oakland less than four hours and I just saw a young man violently assaulted by an armed security guard at Whole Foods — slammed repeatedly against concrete pillars, put in a chokehold, restrained, and suffocated until he was thrown face down on the pavement unconscious. The guard locked him out of the store despite the fact he was immobile. Not a single employee called the paramedics. He was trying to buy groceries with his EBT card and ended up in a stretcher.”
An EBT card is a government-issued debit card containing food stamp benefits.
According to SF Weekly, Oakland police have launched an investigation into the incident and that the victim is in stable condition at an area hospital after first responders arrived at the scene. Authorities have made no public statement as yet if the guard will face criminal charges as a result of the encounter, CBS News affiliate KPIX in San Francisco reported.
Marks told the Oakland Tribune that as far as the victim’s behavior was concerned, “He wasn’t shouting at anyone. He wasn’t violent or disruptive.There was no threat from him to any of the customers or employees. (We) felt safe until the security guard attacked him.”
A Whole Foods spokeswoman initially stated that the company “considers the safety and security of all team members, customers and members of our community a top priority” and that it was actively investigating the matter. She added that the guard in question “interceded when the customer made physical contact with a team member inside the store.”
Whole Foods Market Oakland today posted an update about the incident on the store’s Facebook page.
“While we don’t yet have the final results from the police investigation, we do have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for violence. As a result of the violent behavior of the security guard in our store, we are replacing this security firm in the store. We are also working with all of the private security firms we contract with now to reiterate and reinforce our expectations that they abide by our code of conduct…”
The Whole Foods store reaffirmed that it accepts EBT cards as payment at the checkout counter, dismissing any suggestion that such a card played a role in the violent encounter.
[image via Facebook]