A Million Little Grinches

I will never, ever go shopping at a brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday.

I started refusing from the first year it was held, because at the time I was doing robbery investigations for JP Morgan Chase (I no longer work for them). Back then, our group also fielded calls from various offices whenever a malicious caller made a threat, and back then I heard some outrageous things from customers whose cards were stopped during Black Friday sales. I later went on to another department with that company where I talked to the customers directly, and things got worse every year. In 2009, I had a woman say, “you know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna come to your office and shoot you in the balls!” (Whereupon I corrected her and told her that I was a woman, to which she replied, “no you ain’t! I ain’t never heered no woman talk like no man!”)

This year, this happened at a Wal Mart just half an hour from where I live. It’s the talk of Phoenix right now (aside from the plane crashing into the Superstition Mountains).

I’m going to take a look at both sides of the issue.

The story from the family is that they had gone at midnight to a sale at a Wal Mart store in Buckeye, a suburb of Phoenix. Jerald Newman, 54 years old, had taken his grandson Nick and they were headed for a video game sale that was about to open. Witness Skylar Stone says that the crowd insanely ripped the box to shreds, and Nick was only able to get his hands on one game – but people in the crowd tried to snatch it away from him. Newman, in an effort to stop the greedy crowd from doing so, took the game and shoved it down his trousers. That’s when a loss prevention employee tried to detain him. Newman is hard of hearing and the LP guy wasn’t in uniform; when that employee called uniformed Buckeye police officers over, Newman was slammed to the ground, knocked unconscious, and dragged off to jail. They say that no explanation was requested.

Police, however, say that his actions were classic of shoplifters. According to them, even once uniformed officers came over, he refused to calm down – and when they tried to handcuff him, he still fought, flailing his arms wildly, leaving them no choice but to use force to detain him. His behavior, while it may not have been intentionally aggressive, were still dangerous, and when a person refuses to de-escalate officers will do what they need to do to contain them.

I can understand both arguments. I can understand wanting to protect his grandson and not knowing who the loss prevention guy was. I can understand that he was hard of hearing and wouldn’t have been able to make out what he was being told. What I don’t understand, though, is why he would have put the merchandise down his pants. I’m not sure I believe he was trying to steal it, but regardless of the reason for doing so, there were other ways to stop sticky fingers from trying to steal it from Nick. He had to know that employees would question that kind of move. After that, once he saw uniformed, armed officers approach, he should have understood even though he couldn’t hear. You simply cannot get agitated when you are dealing with a police officer. More often than not, when an officer is dealing with an agitated person, that person intends to do harm, and the officer cannot afford to wait for you to do something harmful.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I understand body-slamming the man onto his face. I’ve studied martial arts for half my life, the vast majority of my time in Shaolin (traditional kung fu) and Krav Maga (Israeli hand-to-hand combat). I’ve taught police officers. I’ve seen what they teach those officers in the academy. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that officers aren’t taught how to fight very well. They’re not really taught to be aggressive, some of them are just naturally so. I know from experience there are many ways to subdue a combative person that don’t include tossing them to the hard floor on their face.

Even though I disagree with both sides to some extent, however, I still think that the guy taking the video and yelling “is that REALLY necessary???” is an idiot. I can’t stand it when people do that to me in public, so it irritates me even more to hear it in these videos. If you’re asking that question out loud, it implies that you expect a response, and the officers are obviously busy. Shut up.

The lynchpin of all of this, however, is the crowd itself. How can any rational human being justify attacking a merchandise display like that and trying to tear a video game out of the hands of a 12-year-old boy? How the hell would you feel if someone else did that to your child? Even if that item is marked down by more than half, that is no reason to be a rabid thug, which is all these creatures are. If you are that desperate to get that deal because you can’t afford it at regular price, then you don’t need that item.

None of this is to mention the woman who, three kids in tow, opened up a can of OC spray (pepper spray) on a crowd headed for a display of XBOX game consoles. That woman managed to pay and get out before police arrived and they still haven’t caught her. Two men at the jewelry counter at a Wal Mart got into a brawl and had to be arrested. At two separate Wal Mart stores, shoppers were accosted by armed robbers in parking lots, with victims in both incidents being shot. A near-riot broke out in yet another Wal Mart (seeing a pattern here?), requiring a police officer to use pepper spray to disperse those involved. In yet another Wal Mart incident, a drunken 22-year-old was tased and arrested after getting into a fight.

The holiday spirit isn’t what it used to be. What scares me is that pretty soon we’ll have reality shows popping up to chronicle the insanity of Black Friday because it almost seems that people enjoy the drama. It is embarrassing that this is what my country has turned into.