Published November 28, 2008
Black Friday took a grim turn when a New York Wal-Mart employee died after bargain hunters broke down the doors to the store, pushing him to the ground.
The 34-year-old male employee was pronounced dead an hour after shoppers breached the doors to the shopping center in Valley Stream, Long Island, about 5 a.m. Friday and knocked him down, police said.
"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," Jimmy Overby, the man's 43-year-old co-worker, told the New York Daily News. "They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too ... I literally had to fight people off my back."
A 28-year-old pregnant woman was also taken in for observation and three other shoppers suffered minor injuries during the incident, police said. The pregnant woman and the unborn baby were reported to be OK, said Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a Nassau County police spokesman.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., closed the store in Valley Stream for several hours after the stampede. It reopened shortly after 1 p.m.
Wal-Mart representative Dan Fogleman called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the victim came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.
"The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," Fogleman said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this difficult time. At this point, facts are still being assembled and we are working closely with the Nassau County Police as they investigate what occurred."
Police said about 2,000 people had gathered outside the doors before the Wal-Mart opened at the suburban location about 20 miles east of Manhattan. A crowd pushed the man to the ground at 5:03 a.m., three minutes after the store opened, leaving a metal portion of the door crumpled like an accordion.
Nassau County police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming described the scene as "utter chaos." "This crowd was out of control," he said.
Criminal charges were possible in the case, but Fleming said it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers. Authorities were reviewing surveillance video.
The industry's largest retail group said the incident was rare.
"We are not aware of any other circumstances where a retail employee has died working on the day after Thanksgiving," said Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday -- which got its name because it has historically been the day when stores break into profitability for the full year.
Many stores open early and close late. The Valley Stream Wal-Mart usually opens at 9 a.m.
Items on sale at the Wal-Mart store included a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.