A couple loss prevention officers assigned to patrol the Vons on Turnpike and Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara were banned from the grocery store chain.
A Santa Barbara resident caught the officers on camera while they used force on a man they suspected of shoplifting.
According to Kelly Hoover from Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, the loss prevention officers spotted the suspect putting items into his pocket. They proceeded to follow him outside the store.That’s when a man heard the scuffle and walked to his car to put his groceries away. When the witness was done, he turned around and decided to film the altercation.
On the video, the man being handcuffed says he didn’t take anything and says he’s not resisting. The two loss prevention officers can be seen tackling the man to the ground and punching him in the face.
“I saw them throw him against the glass and they threw him down and where it got really ugly to me. It seemed like one of the loss prevention guys punched him in the face. At least that’s what I witnessed,” said the witness.
The witness did not stay behind to turn in the footage. He left right after sheriff’s deputies arrived to the scene.
Our reporter showed the video to several shoppers outside of Vons.
“No, I don’t think loss prevention or the police be able to do anything like this actually,” said Greg Dominguez, shopper.
Another viewer told us she can’t form an opinion because she doesn’t know the moments that led up to the altercation.
“Without having been there, I have to say that this video was not as clear as it is for me to make a reaction. I am sorry when people do argue without having a discussion. I can’t give my opinion,” said Jan Meadowcroft, shopper.
The man ended up getting cited for shoplifting. Deputies saw a cut above his left and asked him if he’d like medical treatment. He refused.
“Maybe he’s a criminal but treat someone with respect, but treat someone with respect. They treated him like an animal. It wasn’t right,” said the witness.
Hoover says the loss prevention officers have the right to conduct a citizen’s arrest. However, any use of force can be held against the officers in a civil case.
The director of public affairs for Vons issued the following statement:
“The actions of the two contracted Loss Prevention agents do not represent the standards for handling a possible shoplifting situation in any of our stores. These agents, who are not employees of Vons, will no longer be assigned to this or any other Vons store. We are investigating the incident and will have no further comment until we have all the facts related to this incident.”
Additionally, the sheriff’s office requested security footage from Vons and written reports from the loss prevention officers. The materials have not been turned in.