We all know you're not supposed to shoplift, and even so, it's probably something most people have done at some point in our lives. Whether it's slyly slipping an Urban Outfitter's bespeckled owl necklace into your purse or stealing formula to feed your baby, I'm not here to argue the moral ambiguities of the five-finger discount. I'm just saying, I don't think I can name one person I know who's never lifted something. That's not a defense, mind you, but I'm trying to give some perspective. And that perspective is important because Shelly Frey, a black 27-year-old mother of two, was recently shot and killed on suspicion of shoplifting from a Houston Walmart.
It all stared when an off-duty police officer, Deputy Louis Campbell — who was working his extra job as a Walmart security guard — was informed by some employees that Frey and two friends were seen stuffing merchandise into their purses. According to Dispatches from the Underclass:
When Campbell confront the them at the store's exit, police say one of the women hit him with her purse and ran. Campbell chased them into the parking lot and held their car door open to stop them from leaving, but the driver sped off, at which point Campbell fired at the car, striking Shelly Frey in the neck. She died shortly thereafter at a nearby apartment complex.
Police have unsurprisingly tried to pin blame on the victim, saying that when the car sped off, Campbell fired his gun out of fear for his life because the women were trying to run him over. Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson, Deputy Thomas Gilliband, said, "[The Driver] threw it in reverse and tried to run over the deputy" which "knocked him off balance and, in fear of his life and being ran over, he discharged his weapon at that point." Gilliband also highlighted that one of the women hit Campbell with her purse when he tried to stop her at the store's exit, as though being hit with a purse is somehow equivalent to getting shot.
The other people in the car were Frey's two small children and the two women with Frey in Walmart — Tiasa Andrews, later charged with robbery and assault of a public servant, and Yolanda Craig, later charged with robbery.
Now, I've worked retail at several places, and I was always told to not follow shoplifters. You could hurt yourself or someone else, and honestly, it's not worth getting beaten down over a pair of $14 Old Navy Adoraboots. Plus, retailers have a pretty large amount of merch that's written off as stolen before it even hits the floor. I remember one place I worked, we were told that our store let 58 pieces of clothing walk out the front foor each day, gratis. What I'm trying to get at is, there's no point in bringing a gun to a shoplifting party, because everybody loses.
Here's Walmart's explanation:
This is a tragic situation and we recognize this is a difficult time for all parties involved. We're committed to working with law enforcement and providing any information we have as they determine the facts of the case. Because this is an active investigation, any specific details of the incident should come from law enforcement.
We hire off duty officers to provide security to some of our stores. While we have policies in place for our associates to disengage from situations that might put them or others in harm's way, off-duty officers working at a WM store are authorized to act in accordance with their department's code of conduct.
Seriously? Screw you, Walmart. And also, is shooting someone for shoplifting in the Houston PD's code of conduct? Even if felt like his life was in danger as Campbell drove away, why didn't he aim at her tires? Being knocked off balance is not a good enough excuse.
Frey died in the parking lot of the apartment complex soon after she was shot.
"Shelly was the perfect mom, perfect friend, perfect daughter," said her father, Shelton Frey.
Frey said the 27-year-old mother of two had moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina to start a new life. He said she was limited by how much she could work because of a 2-year-old girl with sickle cell anemia.
I've shoplifted before. That owl necklace story at the top of the story? That was all me — except I didn't have a sick child to care for, all I wanted was something pretty I couldn't afford. I'd shoplifted before, too, and never been caught — perhaps because I'm a nondescript looking white girl, I slipped under the radar. Nobody looked at me with suspicion, I enjoyed being on the giving end of implicit bias.
And when I was caught, I was reprimanded by an on-duty Urban Outfitter's manager who just told never to show my face in the store again. But, again, I was a white woman, and there was no armed off-duty cop present. Don't get me wrong, it still scared the shit out of me, and I never shoplifted again. Because that was so awful and scary to me, I can't begin to imagine the level of fear that Shelly Frey must've felt with an armed man barreling down on her. Terrifying. In the end, Frey paid for a few shitty t-shirts* from Walmart with her life. Heartbreaking.
The case is being investigated by the Harris County Sheriff's Homicide Unit, Office of the Inspector General and the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and will be reviewed by a grand jury. In the meantime, Campbell in on the standard protocol of three days paid leave.
*or whatever Walmart garbage she's suspected of stealing.
Black mother of two shot dead by Walmart security guard for shoplifting [Dispatches from the Underclass]
Family: Mother suspected of shoplifting at Walmart didn't deserve to die [KHOU]