NEW YORK – Officials are combing through surveillance tape of a post-Thanksgiving shopper stampede that killed a Wal-Mart worker in New York to identify individual shoppers who may be responsible, but they say it could be difficult to bring criminal charges.
"We are reviewing film of all places from individual cell phones, from cameras that are in place in the store, trying to identify, if in fact we can identify, people that are culpable in this," Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey told FOX News. "And it is difficult because a lot of people in the front of the line were pushed forward, and it’s difficult for us to decipher who is more responsible in all of this."
Mulvey conceded the case would be "very difficult ... for us to make."
The brutal death of the employee rattled shoppers even as they flocked to the Valley Stream store a day later.
"It felt a little freakish," customer Ellie Berhun, 48, told the Daily News. "Some man lost his life because a VCR was on sale? Please. It's just too sad for words."
Police said the temporary worker, Jdimytai Damour, was mowed down as about 2,000 bargain-hunters surged into the store at Friday's 5 a.m. opening, leaving a metal portion of the door frame crumpled like an accordion.
Other workers were knocked to the ground as they tried to rescue Damour, and customers simply stepped over him and kept shopping even as the store announced it was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.
At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or treatment for minor injuries. The store, about 20 miles east of Manhattan, closed for several hours but reopened Friday afternoon.
The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because it has traditionally marked the point when a throng of shoppers pushes stores into profitability for the year.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said it added staffers and outside security workers and put up barricades to try to prepare for the crush. But police spokesman Detective Lt. Michael Fleming said Friday that security was inadequate for a scene he called "utter chaos."
Criminal charges are possible, but identifying anyone in the store's videos may prove difficult, Fleming said.
Damour, 34, came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store, Wal-Mart said.
A woman reported being trampled by overeager customers at a Wal-Mart opening Friday in Farmingdale, about 15 miles east of Valley Stream, Suffolk County police said. She suffered minor injuries but finished shopping before filling the report, police said.
Items on sale at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart included a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, 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.