NEW YORK - Police were reviewing video from surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify who trampled to death a Wal-Mart worker after a crowd of post-Thanksgiving shoppers burst through the doors at a suburban store and knocked him down.
Criminal charges were possible, but identifying individual shoppers in Friday's video may prove difficult, said Detective Lt. Michael Fleming, a Nassau County police spokesman.
Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.
Police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the Wal-Mart doors before its 5 a.m. opening at a mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the employee, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.
"This crowd was out of control," Fleming said. He described the scene as "utter chaos," and said the store didn't have enough security.
Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said. Shoppers stepped over the man on the ground and streamed into the store.
Damour, 34, of Queens, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 6 a.m., police said. The exact cause of death has not been determined.'
A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital, where she and the baby were reported to be OK, said police Sgt. Anthony Repalone.
Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."
"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."
I read about these kinds of events every year. It happens with depressing regularity. And what’s really strange and unnerving about this is that you realize that a large majority of those early Christmas shoppers every year are women. These are women doing this, who I would like to imagine have a bit more humanity and compassion to them than men. That is a bit of a reverse-sexist opinion on my part, but that has how I have always thought of it. I find it very unnerving that rational thinking processes can be halted and raw emotion substituted by nothing more than a early Christmas sale at a place where you can buy all sorts of junk already at a very low price (which is the subject of a different post altogether).
The mob mentality is a really funny thing. You see it at political rallies and old Universal horror films where the townsfolk are whipped up into a frenzy and storm the castle with pitchforks and torches. But shopping? This is especially indefensible when you stop to think that the same items are going to be available for the next month. Yes, you might save a few bucks, but is that really worth all this? What I find even worse is that the shoppers became very angry and some refused to leave when they were asked to leave because of the death of the employee. That's doubly insane. Just think about that. This poor man isn't going home anymore. He went to work in what you would think is a very safe environment, and he ends up dead. I doubt his family understands. I certainly wouldn't.
I guess I am of the opinion that an event like this is really a peek inside the psyche of our society. It isn’t just a one-off “damn, who would have ever thought that?” kind of event. It is a demonstration of our base, primitive nature. If our society devolves, at some time in the future, to the point that food and water are scarce commodities, I will be very scared. Add angry men with abundant attitudes and guns to the mix and the situation described above, and it won’t be pretty.