Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday Shoppers Cause Death of Wal-Mart Employee

by Donna Weaver

One person was killed and three others injured at a Long Island, New York Wal-Mart when the crowd of over 2,000 people crashed through the glass storefront doors just before 5 a.m. as management prepared to open the store to Black Friday bargain hunters.

Jdimytai Damour, of Jamaica, Queens, was pushed to the ground as hundreds stepped over, around and on the 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee as they rushed into the store.

"Nobody was trying to help him," said shopper Nakea Augustine, who was in the line. "They were rushing in the store, rushing, rushing, rushing."

Witnesses reported that shoppers were asked to leave by other store workers, some of them crying. Others ignored the pleas that they stop shopping, move to the front of the store and exit. Many just kept on shopping. The incident began when people who had gathered well before 5 a.m. in the rear of the line began pushing, cascading the people in the front into the sliding supermarket-type doors, which were literally knocked off their hinges, said Nassau Police Det. Lt. Michael Fleming.

This horrific lack of concern for another human being is more common than you might think. Social psychologists call it the “bystander effect.” Studies show that people are more likely to assist someone in trouble when they are alone, and a group of bystanders is less likely to render aid. The larger the group is, the less chance that someone will help. Some of the factors that may contribute to the bystander effect are degree of danger, not knowing what to do, embarrassment, and diffusion of responsibility.

In this day and age, many of us are hesitant about stopping to help someone because we may be putting ourselves in danger. This would certainly be an issue here for many patrons—it was a very dangerous situation—but it obviously wasn't a concern for others who chose to try to continue shopping and walking around the store. Embarrassment is no excuse. However, it is understandable that many of us would not know what to do to extricate ourselves when caught up in a stampede. But what about what caused the stampede in the first place? Greed and a general lack of concern for the safety of others are big contributing factors here for diffusion of responsibility.

Diffusion of responsibility is when individual members of a group are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their actions because the responsibility is shared by all. Therefore, the responsibility of each group member is lower than it would be for each individual. We have all seen this shameful behavior in cases of fan violence, riots, as well as acts of violence against individuals.

Police are placing the bulk of the blame on Wal-Mart. "I can't stress enough how the onus is on them," said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, the county police's chief spokesman. Wal-Mart has defended its security planning, saying it anticipated the large crowds, hired more personnel and put up barricades.

Social psychologists may call it diffusion of responsibility. In this case, I call it murder. Although it will be difficult to identify individual shoppers, every effort should be made to do so. Every single person who trampled, stepped over, or ignored Jdimytai Damour as he lay dying on the floor should be held legally accountable for his death.


Unknown said...

In a stampede like this, I feel fairly certain that I would have ended up on the floor beside him, equally trampled. One reason why I never leave my house on Black Friday after an incident twenty years ago where a woman hit me repeatedly hit me with a clothes hanger.
Although ideally, the people who caused this stampede should be held responsible, I think others were forced past him without ever being aware that he was lying there. It seems an impossible job to sort out the cupability--some of it lies with Wal Mart but definitely not all the blame.

FleaStiff said...

Crowd control in stadiums and night clubs is an issue, I don't see how it can be much of an issue in a store. Whatever behavior the local residents exhibit, thats a reflection of their values and upbringing. Simple baricades to keep people away from the door were probably all that was needed. I fault the store only for letting people line up hours early. Surge? Yeah sure. Pushed from behind. Nobody ever wants to admit that they can stand their ground in the line and push back not push forward.

cubby said...

You can call it whatever you like, mob mentality or diffusion of responsibility, but what it boils down to is that there are just some people who believe that it's what they want that is important and nothing else. They are oblivious to the ill will, suffering or, in this case, the death of someone when something is standing in the way of what they want. It's the same thing when driving and someone in a large SUV talking on their phone blowing your little car off the road just because they have to be in front to get to the traffic light first.

Ninety-nine percent of the people standing in front of the Wal-mart did nothing wrong, a few people in the back who thought it was funny to push forward. I am sure they knew what could happen but they just didn't car. As far as bigger and better sucurity and barricades, I don't beleive that something like this could have stopped if the push was hard enough.

A Voice of Sanity said...

I hear this is not the first employee injury at a Wal*Mart Black Friday opening like this. If so, they had foreknowledge and the liability is theirs. One might even argue criminal negligence.

Anonymous said...

One might argue that it is insane to stomp on a person to get shoes at half price.

They had security, barracades etc. This was selfish people.

A store having a sale doesnt make them negligent.

And no, calling you insane doesnt mean you taunted a teenager to death.