SOUTHFIELD (AP) The family of a man who died after Kroger security guards subdued him has filed a $750 million lawsuit against the security guards” company and Kroger Stores Inc.
The lawsuit was filed yesterday, a day after the Oakland County Medical Examiner”s office ruled that Travis Shelton died of asphyxia due to compression and classified the death as a homicide.
Shelton, 38, of Detroit, was allegedly trying to steal meat from the supermarket in a low-income community, Royal Oak Township, bordering Detroit on Feb. 8, when guards caught and tackled him, authorities said.
Shelton”s family”s attorney said the action was unnecessary
“The Kroger Corporation throws away 20, 30, 40 times more meat that it alleges that Travis Shelton had put under his jacket,” attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing Shelton”s family, said yesterday.
Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said he would decide if a crime was committed once he received written reports from the medical examiner and the Oakland County Sheriff”s Department.
Gorcyca said he “would not be persuaded” by the lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court against the supermarket and the William Davis and Associates Security Services, Inc.
“Geoff often makes inflammatory comments that are sometimes not based on factual accounts,” Gorcyca said about Fieger, a well-known attorney in the Detroit area who has represented many high-profile cases. “I could really care less about what Geoff does or says.”
Preliminary tests show Shelton had heart disease and other health problems and had cocaine and opiates in his blood when he died.
Officials with the company that employed two security guards involved in stopping Shelton were not immediately available for comment yesterday.
Jon Flora, president of Kroger stores in Michigan, said in a written statement that the company was working with the sheriff”s department and had no comment while the case was under investigation.
The case comes after a highly publicized shoplifting death in the Detroit area. In June, Frederick Finley, 32, died outside a Lord & Taylor store in Dearborn after scuffling with security guards investigating a shoplifting complaint.
Guards had accused Finley”s girlfriend”s 11-year-old daughter of shoplifting. Guard Dennis Richardson, 29, used a headlock to subdue Finley in the store”s parking lot.
Richardson is awaiting trial for involuntary manslaughter. Defense attorneys say Finley had a heart attack prosecutors say he suffocated.
Finley”s death sparked protests, led by prominent figures such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, against Lord & Taylor. Activists accused the store of using black security workers to scrutinize minority shoppers in order to avoid the appearance of discrimination or racial profiling. Finley was black, as is Richardson.
The two guards at Kroger are black, as was Shelton.
The Rev. Horace Sheffield III of New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church who organized protests in Finley”s death said he will meet with the president of Kroger today. A prayer vigil is set for tonight.