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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Whole Foods Fires Security Firm After Armed Guard Allegedy Beats Customer

Posted By on Sat, Sep 5, 2015 at 3:18 PM

click to enlarge ZOE MARKS/FACEBOOK
  • Zoe Marks/Facebook
Whole Foods is firing Admiral Security Services, the security firm at its Oakland store, following reports of a violent assault of a customer by an armed security guard on Thursday evening. The announcement comes one day after Whole Foods "permanently removed" the security guard in question from its stores. 

"As a result of the violent behavior of the security guard at Whole Foods Market Oakland, we are replacing this security firm in the store," spokeswoman Beth Krauss wrote in a statement. "The new firm is A.G.S. Private Security, owned and operated by Ms. Gloria Lawrence of Concord."

According to her LinkedIn page, Gloria Lawrence was formerly an account supervisor with Admiral Security Services, where she specialized in "Retail Security/Loss Prevention at all Wholefoods Stores." 

It is unclear whether Whole Foods is replacing Admiral Security Services at all of its stores, or only the Oakland location. 

Graphic images of a customer lying in a pool of blood were circulated on Facebook by Zoe Marks, a witness to the incident, who wrote that she saw the man "slammed repeatedly against concrete pillars, put in a chokehold, restrained, and suffocated until he was thrown face down on the pavement unconscious." Marks wrote that the incident began when the customer was "trying to buy groceries with his EBT card." 

Marks futher described the incident to the Oakland Tribune, saying, "He wasn't shouting at anyone. He wasn't violent or disruptive. There was no threat from him to any of the customers or employees. (We) felt safe until the security guard attacked him."

The Oakland Police Department is investigating the alleged assault. According to OPD, the victim is in stable condition at a local hospital. 

The images of the aftermath of the assault quickly spread on social media, prompting outrage at the treatment of a black customer in a high-end grocery store that is often seen as a marker of gentrification. Many on Twitter and Facebook called for a boycott of the store.

Krauss pushed back at the idea that the customer's use of EBT (an electronic system to use food stamps) was behind the incident, writing, "We want to clarify that EBT cards are readily accepted forms of payment at all Whole Foods Market stores.In fact, there’s no way or reason for a cashier to know if a customer is using an EBT card unless items not covered under EBT regulations are presented for payment, or the customer voluntarily displays the EBT to the cashier."

Since the incident became national news, various accounts have emerged online suggesting that the customer was in some way to blame for the security guard's actions. On it's Facebook page, Whole Foods wrote, "There are no cases - ever - in which our protocol calls for violence. The actions of the security guard were completely contrary to our policies and values, which is why the firm is being replaced." 

If you were a witness to this incident, please contact us at jwong@sfweekly.com

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

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Bio:
Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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