Published December 04, 2008
A line-cutting dispute among shoppers who waited for hours outside a New York Wal-Mart and those who stayed inside their cars led to the stampede that killed a store worker, Newsday reports.
Nassau police said Wednesday that the conflict among shoppers who remained in their cars and those who waited in the cold weather fostered a "mob mentality" that led to the death last week of 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, according to the paper.
"A whole lot of people started getting out of their cars and made a beeline for that door," Nassau Police Lt. Kevin Smith told the paper. "It's definitely a contributing factor — the mentality of 'They're not going to cut in front of me.'"
The news comes a day after the siblings of the 6-foot-5, 270-pound temporary worker filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, Green Acres Mall in Nassau County, N.Y., Vornado Realty Trust and Securitas Security Services USA, alleging wrongful death.
Damour was asphyxiated last Friday while trying to shield a pregnant shopper from the throngs of bargain hunters pushing their way into the Valley Stream, N.Y., store.
The suit was filed in New York Supreme Court in the Bronx on behalf of Elsie Damour Phillipe, one of Damour's sisters who is the administrator of his estate.
It alleges that Damour's death resulted from "the carelessness, recklessness, wanton disregard for public safety and gross negligence of the defendants ... in the staging, conducting and advertising for sales events."
Lawsuits were also being considered against Nassau County and its police force, the family's lawyer, Jordan Hecht, told FOXNews.com.
"The county has no liability in situations of this kind," Nassau County Attorney Lorna Goodman said.
Wal-Mart issued a statement saying it would cooperate with local law enforcement officials to develop stronger safety measures for the future.
"We consider Mr. Damour part of the Wal-Mart family, and are saddened by his death," the statement said. "We have been in communication with members of his family to do what we can to help them through this difficult time. Our associates know that when incidents like this occur, we take care of our own."
Police are reviewing store video to identify possible suspects in Damour's death, but Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey conceded the likelihood that anyone will be held criminally liable is slim.
At least four other people were treated at hospitals, including a woman who was eight months pregnant. Mulvey said it was apparent to him that the Wal-Mart store lacked adequate security to handle the crowds. He said police representatives met with retailers throughout the county two weeks before Thanksgiving and made it clear that security and crowd control for the sales was the responsibility of the merchants.
Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day stores broke into profitability for the full year.
The National Retail Federation believes Damour is the first store worker to die on the job in the post-Thanksgiving rush. A private funeral service is planned, Hecht said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.