For the price of a tube of toothpaste, a life is lost.

For the price of a tube of toothpaste, a life is lost. According to police reports, Anthony Kyser was shoplifting from a CVS store. Kyser was seen by the store manager and chased out of the store. Surveillance cameras and witnesses say a CVS employee struggled with Kyser, wrestled him down and got his arm around Kyser’s throat. Other CVS employees joined in trying to subdue Kyser until he passed out, and later died.

But that was only two of the crimes committed.

The other crime is that police have declined to press charges against the manager, even though the medical examiner has ruled Kyser’s death a homicide.

Police say that the store manager shouldn’t be charged because the death was accidental, and that the manager did not mean to kill him. That sounds like the textbook definition of manslaughter.

If Kyser was indeed shoplifting (and no one has presented any evidence to say that he was), then he was committing a crime. But the penalty for shoplifting is not death. He was not armed, he did not threaten anyone, he did not present a danger to anyone in the store or out of the store. Once apprehended and tried for that crime, Kyser could have faced some time in the county jail. He might have been fined. He might have gotten treatment for some of his reported problems. He would definitely have still been alive.

There are some who applaud the actions of the CVS employees. They say he was doing his job and should be commended for apprehending Kyser. But if CVS policy says that employees should attempt to subdue shoplifters, or robbers, or vandals, then CVS ought to make sure those employees are trained to subdue them. Obviously, these employees did not have training in how to subdue a person without choking them to death. Instead, it sounds like the employees took it upon themselvs to subdue Kyser, which caused his death.

That means that CVS also has to answer for Kyser’s death. That will not mean criminal charges, but it could bring a civil suit.

Vigilantism should never be applauded. Reportedly, an off-duty Cook County corrections officer on the scene radioed for assistance while the store manager was choking Kyser. Had the officer intervened, a life would have been saved.

We applaud Cong. Bobby Rush for stepping up to ask that States Attorney Anita Alvarez step in and make sure someone pays for Kyser’s death.

“This man’s murder was absurd. It is beyond comprehension. What kind of society are we living in where an unarmed man’s life can be taken by a group of vigilantes, with eye witness accounts, and a ruling of homicide by the medical examiner and still no one is charged and brought to justice,” Rush asked.

We demand States Attorney Anita Alvarez to thoroughly investigate this terrible tragedy and make sure no one is allowed to walk away from beating and choking a man to death. Life cannot be that cheap. 

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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