Trevor King had a marketable commodity to sell. He was an Atlanta police officer, which meant he could beat people with apparent impunity, which was what Walmart was buying. There was no reason why Walmart couldn’t hire and train its own personnel to perform the loss prevention function, but a cop comes with benefits.
After all, King was trained at the expense of the people of Atlanta. He had a shield paid for by the people of Atlanta. He had a gun paid for by the people of Atlanta. And anything he did in the performance of his side job would be covered by his blue brothers. And they did.
Representatives for the Atlanta Police Department provided an incident report saying Carnegay pushed past the loss prevention officer and tried to push past King when he was asked to return the stolen items. King said he hit Carnegay with the baton only after he ignored commands to get on the ground and tugged on King’s gun belt in a struggle.
“Upon completion of the investigation Mr. Carnegay had a receipt for a tomato, and it appears that he either got another one, or replaced the one that he had without letting the store know about it,” the report said. “Also in Mr. Carnegay’s black bag was set of nunchuks.”
The nunchuks, wholly irrelevant to anything beyond their potential to taint Carnegay as a martial artist or potential terrorist, is a great touch. Since he apparently lacked the similarly irrelevant but always convenient prior criminal history with which to smear, the best the cops could do was nunchuks. Why would a legit guy have nunchuks in his bag at Walmart? Of sure, he could have been on his way home from a work out, but he also could be a bad dude. See how it makes you wonder?
Moonlighting cops are a fascinating twist, given that they carry with them their expectation that their word is sufficient to inflict pain on the non-compliant. Except here, King wasn’t working as a cop, even if an off-duty cop is still a cop. Here, he was just another doofus at the door of Walmart. A shopper, Carnegay, “ignored commands”? So what? Since when do people have a duty to comply with the commands of some guy working at Walmart upon pain of a beating?
And a beating Carnegay got.
The video reveals that the Atlanta police report is, surprisingly, somewhat less than accurate. Pushing past King? Not quite. Reaching for his gun belt? Not really. But then, the problem isn’t that a shopper at Walmart failed to heed the order of some flunky in loss prevention, but a cop. When you don’t do as a cop commands, you suffer the indignity of some compliance blows from the baton. The problem is that the same methods used on duty, when covered up in the usual jargon that distinguishes cop safety from beating the crap out of a guy, don’t carry the same panache when the guy doing the beating is a flunky at Walmart.
There is, of course, the irony that Carnegay’s “offense” was the alleged theft of a tomato. Although, let one guy steal a tomato and next thing you know, everybody is stealing tomatoes. Pretty soon, Walmart becomes the tomato theft capital of Atlanta. And we can’t have that, particularly given the slim profit margin on tomatoes. And what of all the honest people who will have to pay the price for the stolen tomatoes? Do you even care about them?
Except, the irony gets thicker. Turns out that Carnegay had the receipt for the tomato in his pocket, but nobody asked for it first.
“When he found the receipt and the money and everything,” said Carnegay, “he just stared at it like he hadn’t done nothing.”
Not that the receipt did much to help, but then cop training likely kicked in, and when you beat and inflict significant damage on a guy, there must be a crime to justify it.
Carnegay told WSB-TV he was chained to his hospital bed, where he received treatment for the broken bones and a ruptured artery that later oozed blood out of his cast. Prosecutors didn’t drop the charges until roughly a year later. Carnegay tried to explain to King and other staff that it had been a misunderstanding, he said.
Carnegay was released after three days in jail, not to mention his fractured fibula and tibia, and the ruptured artery. And he’s suing for his damages.
The lawsuit names Walmart, King and the other employee as defendents. Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, noted King was working that day for a third-party security company rather than the international superstore chain itself.
“We take the matter seriously,” Hargrove said. “We will review the allegations once we’ve been served and we will respond appropriately with the court.”
A curious response from Walmart, given that one would expect Walmart to be aware of the fact that one of its shoppers got the crap beat out of him in their store. Over nothing. And wrongfully. With its blessing. And the Atlanta Police are just as on top of the situation as Walmart.
Efforts to contact King were not successful Tuesday, and a call to the Atlanta Police Union was not immediately returned.
“The Atlanta Police Department is aware of a 2014 video between an off-duty Atlanta Police Officer and an alleged shoplifter at a Walmart,” APD spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement. “The city has not been served with a lawsuit and a complaint was not filed with the APD’s Office of Professional Standards. APD is reviewing the incident.”
Because APD didn’t have a chance to give this much thought before? While there is no shortage of absurdity to this beating at every level, there is one particularly dangerous factor that seems to be largely taken for granted. Most departments take no issue with their off-duty cops selling their badge and gun to the highest bidder for the extra buck.
Had this “loss-prevention employee” not been an Atlanta cop, would he have felt entitled to beat a man for non-compliance? Would he have been so arrogant as to believe that the Atlanta police would back him up, no matter that it was over a tomato? Would he believe his command was sufficient to break another guy’s leg? Who does that? Well, a cop does that.
But hey, this is America, so isn’t a guy entitled to sell his shield? And isn’t Walmart entitled to buy it so no shopper gets away with tomato theft? Or at least, mistaken tomato theft. This is going to turn out to be one really expensive tomato.