Don Watson, the night manager of a Prattville, Alabama, Wal-Mart was recently fired almost a month after confronting a shoplifter with an overflowing cart of merchandise.
When Watson caught the shoplifter, the man punched him in the face. However, Watson was able to hold the man down until security from a nearby building arrived.
He described the incident, saying, “When I caught up to the individual he turned and grabbed me, struck me in the face and dragged me to the ground.”
Roderick Gray, the shoplifter, was attempting to steal $1,118 worth of goods. Watson said that Gray had stolen $3,500 worth of merchandise in the nine days leading up to the incident.
Gray was charged with first-degree robbery.
Wal-Mart company policy dictates that employees are not supposed to pursue a shoplifter beyond 10 feet of the store. However, Wal-Mart reduces bonuses for its sales associates based on the amount of stolen goods. Therefore, managers have an extra incentive to try to keep shoplifting to a minimum.
Watson said that most managers tend to pursue shoplifters for more than 10 feet.
Watson was fired for “gross misconduct” for failing to protect his own safety and failing to abide by company policy. He was not injured in the incident.
“It was just kind of strange," Watson said. "It was strange that they came to this conclusion after 27 days. I thought I was protecting the company."
Wal-Mart spokesperson Aaron Mullins explained the company’s reasoning, saying, “It is a tough situation anytime we have an associate that does something that unfortunately puts himself in danger.”
He continued: “We don't think there is any amount of stolen merchandise that is worth anyone's life. Associates are trained to follow certain security measures."
Watson said he was planning to appeal the decision because being fired for gross misconduct would cripple his chances at landing another job.
Watson described whether he would take the job back, saying: "I would have to. I went from making a decent living, making almost $50,000 a year, to nothing."