Store employees allegedly assault patron

Police claim customer shoplifted

Witnesses said one Save-A-Lot shopper got more than he bargained for during a May 17 trip to the 1015 Charles St. location. James Kyles of Rockford alleged store employees attacked a Hispanic man allegedly stealing a $1 item.

Rockford Deputy Chief of Police Greg Lindmark identified the man as Francisco Garcia. Lindmark said Garcia was arrested on retail theft and assault charges as well as several outstanding warrants, after attempting to shoplift the item.

“I’m really shocked. I’m almost speechless,” Kyles said, after learning Garcia had been charged.

Lindmark said store employees initially allowed Garcia to go free, but he attacked store employees. He said Garcia allegedly attempted to bite them.

Kyles disputes that claim.

“The police weren’t there. Anything they say is hearsay. They should know that,” he said.

Kyles said he never saw Garcia attack anyone. He also questioned police response to the incident, noting six police cars arrived on the scene.

“This is where our tax dollars go,” Kyles recalled saying to a store employee.

He alleged officers refused to take his statement, despite his repeated offers to give one.

“No one asked me for my name. They didn’t want to know anything,” Kyles said.

A 25- to 28-year-old, nearly 6-foot tall employee, Kyles said, held up the alleged stolen item and claimed Garcia stole it. He said Garcia never left the store. Kyles said the incident escalated from there.

“They walked back calmly, and he just attacked him,” he said.

According to a statement Kyles gave Save-A-Lot’s corporate office, the employee grabbed Garcia—5 foot, 4 inches tall—who weighed between 110 and 130 pounds. The employee grabbed him by the collar and slammed Garcia to the floor.

A second male employee, 40 to 50 years old, also became involved, Kyles said. He said the second employee held Garcia’s free arm, so he couldn’t fight back. But the younger employee carried Garcia into the back receiving room, continuing the alleged attack.

Kyles said he witnessed the altercation for several minutes before a female employee told him to stop watching. According to Kyles, the older employee, who helped restrain Garcia, stood in front of the door to block his view.

Garcia was apparently trying to explain himself as they beat him, Kyles said.

“It sounded as if he were saying, ‘I have a cart…I have a cart,’” he said.

Vaughn Johnson, a patron Kyles brought to the store, witnessed the incident as well. Johnson said he was in the store’s meat department with Kyles. He corroborated Kyles’ account.

“They were steady beating on him until the police got there,” Johnson said.

Both Johnson and Kyles said they saw bruises on Garcia’s head and neck, when the police led him out of the store.

The Rock River Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, to obtain a copy of the police report. But the Rockford Police Department denied that request because the case is still open.

Save-A-Lot spokesman Jaime Folsom confirmed Garcia had been arrested and charged with theft.

Folsom said because the incident resulted in an arrest, the company was deferring to law enforcement officials. She said the company plans to continue cooperating with officials to keep its stores safe.

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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