Wal-Mart's unhappy holiday tradition: Black Friday violence
What is it about Wal-Mart and Black Friday? That's the question as the discount retailer once again is making headlines for Black Friday violence.
This year, reports of injuries, fights and at least one shooting have come in from across the country, with one California customer even fending off competing shoppers with pepper spray. The incidents are a grim reminder of the 2008 Black Friday stampede at a Long Island, N.Y., Wal-Mart that left one temporary store employee dead and a pregnant woman hospitalized.
Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said he doesn't think Black Friday shopping violence is a singularly Wal-Mart phenomenon, though he declined to elaborate on the record. Nor did he want to hazard any opinions on the effect the current economy might be having on shoppers -- or on the type of shopper (desperate? violence-prone?) that Wal-Mart might be attracting.
"It's been a very safe event at thousands of Wal-Mart stores," Rossiter said. These were "a few unfortunate incidents."
Among those latest incidents:
In Myrtle Beach, S.C., a man and a woman were injured as they were leaving a Wal-Mart about 1 a.m. Friday. Assailants hit the man in the head and shot the woman in the leg, CNN reported, but fled when another shopper also pulled out a gun.
In Kissimmee, Fla., one man was arrested after a fight at a Wal-Mart jewelry counter, police said.
In Rome, N.Y., a fight just after midnight reportedly landed two people in the hospital with minor injuries.
And in San Leandro, Calif., members of a family trying to take their Black Friday Wal-Mart purchases home were accosted by three or four assailants, authorities said. One of the family members was shot after refusing to hand over the goods. Other family members managed to wrestle one suspect to the ground; the other suspects fled. The pinned suspect was arrested, and the shooting victim was listed in critical but stable condition on Friday morning.
The violence pales in comparison, though, to the 2008 Long Island incident in which "a throng of shoppers physically broke down the doors" of a Wal-Mart, knocking to the ground and trampling a 34-year-old temporary employee, according to Nassau County officials.
The employee died of his injuries, and a Wal-Mart statement at the time called the situation tragic. "The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," the company said.
Not nearly as tragic, but certainly headline-grabbing, was the pepper-spray incident Friday in California's San Fernando Valley. A woman trying to get her hands on merchandise used pepper spray to get rid of the competition, authorities said.
"She was competitive shopping," said Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson.
It worked, apparently, as the woman reportedly made her purchase and exited the store.
"We're glad everyone seems to be OK" in the wake of the incident, Rossiter said, adding that Wal-Mart is cooperating with law enforcement authorities and providing surveillance video from the store in an attempt to identify the woman.
-- Amy Hubbard
Video: Black Friday chaos at the Porter Ranch, Calif., Wal-Mart store. Credit: Deciple87 / YouTube