ANTIOCH (KPIX 5) — An alleged shoplifter died inside an Antioch Lucky supermarket after a confrontation with a store worker, police said.
It happened Wednesday night around 9:58 p.m. just before closing time at the store 3190 Contra Loma Boulevard. Aside from possibly losing his job, the store worker could face criminal charges.
Antioch police said the 56-year-old worker caught a 34-year-old man attempting to steal meat from behind the butcher shop. The worker told police the man attacked him after he asked him to stop. The worker said he fought back.
Police said the worker sustained neck and head injuries. Paramedics took him to a local hospital where he was in stable condition. Police said the suspected shoplifter died at the scene. Police did not identify the worker nor the suspect.
“When the officers arrived on scene, they found one subject who was unconscious, did not have a pulse. The police began doing CPR on him until they were relieved by firefighters and paramedics. And the paramedics eventually pronounced that person deceased on scene,” said Antioch Police Lt. Joe Donleavy.
A dispatcher with the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District said initial witness information suggested the store worker used a chokehold on the man.
“It’s gonna be for a subject who is not breathing after being put in a headlock during a fight,” said the dispatcher during a radio transmission to responding firefighters and paramedics.
Antioch police could not confirm that account and said it was under investigation.
“For somebody to die just over some food, I mean, it’s sad,” said Chris Dutra, a shopper who lives near the Lucky store. “It’s not right.”
“Over some meat, you know, like, he should have let that go,” said Ronald Mixon who works in the area. “It’s unfortunate for both of them.”
The Lucky worker may not have a job to return to. Lucky has a store policy that prevents workers from engaging with shoplifters. Two years ago, Lucky fired an Oakland Montclair store clerk for stopping a shoplifter. A Lucky spokeswoman did not respond back when asked about the worker’s job status.
“Co-workers shouldn’t be using a chokehold and they really are not supposed to stop a shoplifter. They’re supposed to call the police,” said Mixon.
“What investigators are going to be looking at is how the incident took place and what type of force was used,” said Paul Henderson, a veteran prosecutor and KPIX 5 legal analyst.
He said investigators will ask whether or not the store worker responded with appropriate force in the situation. The district attorney’s office hasn’t received the case yet. But they told me they’ll also look at the cause of death, intent, and witness statements.
An attorney at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said it’s not as simple as using the self-defense claim. It’s a lot more complicated when making a determination on whether the worker will face criminal charges.
“If an agent from the store exercised an inappropriate use of force for an individual that was on the property, that’s going to be key,” said Henderson.
Police say race did not appear to be an issue in this case. Both the suspected shoplifter and the store worker are White.