Facebook user Zoe Marks shared three graphic photos
of the victim of the attack, who she says was "trying to buy groceries with his EBT card and ended up in a stretcher."
"I just saw a young man violently assaulted by an armed security guard at Whole Foods - slammed repeatedly against concrete pillars, put in a chokehold, restrained, and suffocated until he was thrown face down on the pavement unconscious. The guard locked him out of the store despite the fact he was immobile. Not a single employee called the paramedics."
She added, "I'm sorry for more graphic images of violence against black citizens, but I was here and spoke to the victim (to keep him conscious), perpetrator, several bystanders, and cops. Armed private guards cannot be tolerated in our grocery stores and communities when this is what they do to paying customers."
Marks, who appears to be visiting Oakland from Edinburgh, also took to the market's Yelp page
to share her account of the incident:
It's time to disarm your guards and put customers first. This young man was violently assaulted by an aggressive security officer while trying to buy groceries with EBT. He was slammed against a concrete column repeatedly, placed in a chokehold, and then suffocated over his mouth before being thrown face first on the pavement in front of the store. Instead of medical care your staff locked him out, lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood while horrified fellow customers demanded calls to the paramedics and shouted they would NEVER shop at Whole Foods Oakland again.
Employees at the Whole Foods referred us to Whole Food's corporate office, which responded to a query with the following statement (also posted on the Whole Foods Facebook page
Last night at our Oakland store, there was an altercation that escalated to violence. The graphic images circulating on Facebook and Twitter are disturbing to say the least. Whole Foods Market considers the safety and security of all team members, customers and members of our community a top priority. The security guard involved in the incident has been suspended, and we are actively investigating the details with our security firm. While we move swiftly to gather the facts, we want to make it clear that Whole Foods Market takes a zero tolerance approach to violence.
We've reached out to Marks and the Oakland Police Department, and we will update as we learn more.
UPDATE: The Oakland Police Department responded to our query and says they are "looking into" the incident: "This is what we know at this time. OPD Dispatch was contacted by OFD last night, September 3, 2015, at 9:42PM, regarding an unconscious man that security had called in. We will update you as soon as we receive additional information regarding this incident."
UPDATE 2: OPD now says they are "investigating an assault that occurred on September 3, 2015, at 9:42PM, at Bay and Harrison Street." OPD says the victim is at a local hospital in stable condition.
UPDATE 3: We still haven't been able to reach Zoe Marks, but she spoke to the Oakland Tribune
"He wasn't shouting at anyone. He wasn't violent or disruptive," Marks said of the customer. "There was no threat from him to any of the customers or employees. (We) felt safe until the security guard attacked him."
Marks, who gave her statement to Oakland police, said she watched as the guard slammed the man against a concrete pillar, put him in a chokehold until he passed out, and threw him out of the store.
"No one called for help. They called for backup," she said of store employees by phone on Friday. "They were treating him as a threat as he lay unconscious in his own blood."
UPDATE 4: The Whole Foods spokesperson says, "The security guard involved with this incident has been permanently removed from Whole Foods Market."
In Oakland less than four hours and I just saw a young man violently assaulted by an armed security guard at Whole Foods...Posted by Zoe Marks on Friday, September 4, 2015
The Whole Foods market near Lake Merritt in Oakland was the site of a bloody "altercation" between a security guard and a black customer last night, according to a witness and the Whole Foods store.