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‘She should be fired’: Legal expert discusses Dollar General employee caught on video ‘intentionally’ mowing down a man with her car for allegedly shoplifting

Dollar General Fresno Incident Cyclist

A hatchback crashes into a cyclist in Fresno, California on May 11, 2023. (Screengrab via Law&Crime with permission from homeowner)

A Dollar General store in California could be on the hook for a substantial sum of money after an employee appears to have flouted the state’s monopoly on violence by going after an accused shoplifter on her own – and hitting him with her car.

In the doorbell footage recorded earlier this month, a white hatchback or smaller-sized SUV mows down a Black man riding a bicycle.

As the clip begins, a screeching brake can be heard. Then, almost instantly, comes the sound of the bike crashing to the ground – along with the contents of what was in the man’s basket as the items tumble across the suburban-looking driveway, some of them spilling.

A bouquet of pink roses also falls.

As the man tries to collect himself, the woman flings the door of her car open, appearing to hit him again. The man then attempts to pick up the far-flung bags of potato chips, cans of soda, and other items.

“Who the f— do you think you are?” the woman shouts at the man. “Stealing s— from my store?”

In the footage, the man and woman loudly shout at one another. The woman appears to pick up the man’s bicycle by the basket and throws it to the side. The man continues to pick up the wreckage.

“You don’t live the f—- life I live, b—,” he tells her.

The dialogue is increasingly difficult to make out as both the man and the woman are audibly upset. After a while, the woman begins to try and collect items as well – and places some of them, including the roses, in her car. The man collects a few items in his hands and walks away, telling her that shoplifting isn’t worth what she just did.

Eventually, the woman backs up her car as the clip cuts out.

The shocking incident occurred on May 11 in Fresno, California.

Christa Ramey, a Los Angeles-based personal injury attorney who is not affiliated with the case, recently spoke to Sam Goldberg during an episode of Law&Crime’s “After Hours” to assess the legal issues involved in the attack on the man.

“She should be fired,” Ramey told Law&Crime. “This is a darn good reason to fire someone.”

Driving into an alleged petty thief, or even a proven thief who has stolen something far more substantial, the attorney explained, goes far beyond what an employee is allowed or expected to do.

“He allegedly stole something,” Ramey said. “But we saw what she did. And she intentionally ran him down. So…she is in some potential criminal, and Dollar General is in some potential civil, liability.”

The attorney went on to explain an affirmative defense to the crime and tort of false imprisonment.

“Stores generally have what’s called a ‘shopkeeper’s privilege,'” Ramey explained. “They’re allowed to detain someone that they have a probable cause belief – just the same as if a police officer stops you – probable cause belief that a crime had been committed. So, if they stole something. But what the shopkeeper privilege does not allow you to do is to intentionally run someone over.”

The attorney went on to explain that many stores try to restrict how employees respond to alleged thefts, if stopping theft is in an employee’s job description in the first place, like a security guard, because “they might get into some trouble if they cause some harm and they go too far.”

“This is intentional battery,” Ramey said. “With a deadly weapon.”

Under California law, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm carries a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.

Ramey said the store could be in some potential liability for the employee’s conduct as well – to the tune of potentially millions of dollars. The extent of those liabilities depends on the extent of the cyclist’s injuries, she said.

“You can’t really tell if he’s injured at this time,” the attorney explained. “They may take a day or two before you realize how much pain you’re in. After the adrenaline of the moment is gone.”

There are times, Ramey cautioned, when it might be advisable for a store employee to simply detain someone – if they intend to make off with a bit more than a small and purloined amount of food.

“Potentially, it’s worth stopping someone and detaining them until the police arrive, but not running them down with a car,” she said. “Ever. That should never be permitted in a civilized society. That’s why we have law enforcement.”

In response to an inquiry from Law&Crime, the Fresno Police Department appeared to have no knowledge of the incident.

Law&Crime also reached out to Dollar General but no response was immediately forthcoming.

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