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Wal-Mart calls pepper-spray attack 'unfortunate situation'

November 26, 2011 |  8:10 am

Wal-Mart described the pepper-spray attack at its Porter Ranch store during a Black Friday sale "an unfortunate situation" and vowed to work with law enforcement to catch the assailant.

"We're glad everyone seems to be OK," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "We're working with law enforcement to provide what information we have, such as surveillance video, to assist in their investigation."

Los Angeles police gave a fuller description Friday of the woman, who they say sprayed customers in an effort to gain a competitive edge during a Thanksgiving night Black Friday sale on video-game consoles. About 20 people were hit -- including children -- but no one was seriously hurt.

Police described the woman as a Latina, in her early to late 30s, wearing black pants and a black sweater during the late Thursday night assault. Los Angeles Police Department Det. Gus Villanueva said the woman stands about 5-foot-3 and weighs about 140 pounds.

Although more people may have been affected, 10 customers were treated at the scene by city firefighters, he said. Witnesses said the woman determined to purchase an Xbox game console, which was one of the Black Friday specials at the store.

There were reports that the woman managed to buy one of the consoles, and Villanueva said LAPD detectives were reviewing video surveillance and receipts in an effort to identify the suspect.

“Crowds like this, a panic can ensue, people could fall and be trampled on if people are stampeding in an effort to get away from this,” Villanueva said Friday afternoon. “I know there’s tough economic times for some and sales are great, but in the spirit of the season let’s exercise some patience at these sales events. We don’t want anyone to be injured.”

North Hills residents Sue McManus, 48, a consulting firm conference coordinator, and her husband, Danny, 49, a movie makeup assistant, were at the Porter Ranch store when the pepper-spray incident happened.

They were there for a 40-inch Samsung LCD TV marked down from $698 to $598. Danny McManus said “people were flying and pushing past us” in the health and beauty section because the electronics section was so crowded. The couple decided to leave when his eyes started getting irritated.

“I’m not putting up with pepper spray for one TV,” he said. “There wasn’t a place in the store where you couldn’t smell the stuff. ... It was a gnarly, burning smell.”

Villanueva said anyone with information on the incident should call detectives at (818) 832-0609.


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-- Angel Jennings and Hector Becerra