Disabled friend was just assaulted in a store - what do we do?
May 14, 2016 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Exactly like it says on the tin - I'm just as shocked as they are, and they're not quite sure what to do. I've never been in this situation before, and I really want to help them out, so I'm turning to the Green to figure out what to do next...

Some background: said friend is hearing impaired and suffers from some balance issues (related to the hearing impairment), which causes them to stumble while walking or standing. This incident occurred in a Trader Joe's in San Francisco earlier today.

As far as I know, they were out shopping and walking down the aisle of TJ's, carrying a shopping basket full of stuff. Apparently, the store was crowded, which worsened their balance issues, and my friend's basket bumped into some guy who was walking in the opposite direction down the aisle - although my friend didn't notice, nor did he hear anything, and just walked in the opposite direction to get in line to check out. It turned out that this guy then followed my friend to the checkout and then sucker-punched them in the side, hard, and walked off. My friend then went to an employee who may or may not have been the manager, who kept saying something along the lines of, "aw shucks, I'm sorry that happened, but I think it's just best if you stay away from that guy."

Anyway, my friend is now nursing a huge bruise under their armpit and they're understandably really pissed off at the whole situation. I'm pissed off too, and I'd like to help them escalate this to the proper authorities but we aren't sure what to do. They were able to get a pretty good cell phone photo of the perp, though - which was tough because he kept trying to hide his face, apparently. I saw the photo and the guy in question is a pretty normal-looking young-ish white dude, which is kind of scary.

So what should we do? Should I go back to the store with my friend, and ask to speak to the manager and see if we can look at the video from the cameras in the store, then take that to the police? Or do we go to the police first? Said friend is also concerned that the initial bump could look intentional on film, even though it may have been caused by the balance issues, and that that would reflect poorly on them were we to take this further, but I keep telling them that no matter what happened, a bump sure as hell doesn't deserve a sucker punch like that. I don't know how the law works there though.

Thanks, guys - I want to do what I can to stop this bullshit and we'd really appreciate any advice.
posted by un petit cadeau to Law & Government (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He should call the police and file a report. Possibly go to the Ermergency Dept to make sure he has no broken ribs. The police should contact the store.

I believe the employee gave him the wrong info by not calling the police themselves. I consider this an assault. Good luck to both of you.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:45 PM on May 14, 2016 [42 favorites]

Wow, this is awful. If you have a photo of the guy and there's store footage, it'll lend you credence if you go to the police first. Like cairnoflore says, this is assault (and accidentally bumping into someone with your grocery basket is decidedly not). Cops can deal with getting the security tape, etc.

P.S. if the guy checked out with a card they'll have his name.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 2:47 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

Call the cops, call the store they may have surveillance video.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:57 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

The store employee is 1000% WRONG.

- File a police report. Ask them about pressing charges, getting the footage and suspect's name from Trader Joe's.

- Go to the store, TALK TO THE MANAGER. Go with your friend to advocate with the store.

- Often it helps if you liaison between the police and the store. You want the detective and store manager in touch. Likely corporate will need to be involved to release info and evidence to the police. Again, don't let this go.

- Ah, the employee. Yep. I think you will have to identify them and the management will need to re-train staff on how to handle crime in the store. I wouldn't let this go. You don't have to be mean, but please don't let this aspect drop.

- Your friend is likely in shock. They will experience depression. Comfort your friend. Thanks for being willing to get involved.
posted by jbenben at 2:58 PM on May 14, 2016 [28 favorites]

Yeah, even if your friend had deliberately bumped the guy, say to nudge him out of the way, him tracking your friend down for vengeance is definitely an escalation. Call the cops. Worst case scenario, they'll say it looks like a wash, but at least if this guy ever does anything else, there will be a record.
posted by teremala at 2:59 PM on May 14, 2016

Photograph the bruising. Really document it. Yep, you probably want to visit the ER if he fears cracked ribs, etc..

Take care.
posted by jbenben at 2:59 PM on May 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

What would your friend like to do? Your friend should decide whether he wishes to report this to police. (You can't requisition security footage as private citizens. The police do that.)

They can also tell you whether he should be in touch with the store. If your friend wishes to accuse the store or employee of being negligent, that's a legal matter and he should not make any contact with the store or employee, but instead call a lawyer to handle all such communications.
posted by kapers at 3:03 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

Definitely report it to SFPD. There's been a rash of unprovoked random assaults reported in the past year in SF, never know if the photo your friend captured will help solve more than one incident.
posted by jamaro at 3:12 PM on May 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

And yes, hospital and police visits should happen sooner rather than later.

I really don't agree with the recommendations to go to the store yourselves and chew them out. They are not going to admit negligence to you and whoever you speak to will not be in a position to do anything (unless your friend would be satisfied with a coupon or something.) and if your friend wants to pursue this legally, this attempt would hurt his case.

Hospital first, call the police from the waiting room.
posted by kapers at 3:18 PM on May 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

BTW, If your friend didn't notice they bumped the guy, how did they know this is why the guy punched them? Maybe it's just a blip in your telling but your friend seems worried about being believed so these are the kinds of details they should be accurate about when reporting to police, if this is what they want to do.
posted by kapers at 3:30 PM on May 14, 2016 [17 favorites]

As kapers just pointed out, your friend may be mistaken as to the guy's motivations.

A friend of mine was once pushed into traffic by a guy on the street, which he initially had assumed was an overreaction to a jostling or something else he'd done, but it turned out that it was just one in a series of unprovoked racially motivated attacks.

If this is part of a pattern, that cell phone photo and information about the time and place might be useful in helping the police track the guy down.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:35 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

nthing the suggestion to file a police report. This was assault, which is a crime. Take pictures of the bruises. Go to the hospital if your friend is in a lot of pain.

The police can contact the store as necessary to investigate the crime that occurred there. But the store employee handled things very badly. I would strongly encourage your friend to complain, both to the store and to Trader Joe's corporate. Failure to call the police after a violent crime was committed on store premises is absolutely ludicrous and unacceptable.
posted by teponaztli at 3:52 PM on May 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

my friend's basket bumped into some guy who was walking in the opposite direction down the aisle - although my friend didn't notice, nor did he hear anything, and just walked in the opposite direction ... this guy then followed my friend to the checkout and then sucker-punched them in the side, hard, and walked off.

Echoing kapers and ernielundquist's comments - if your friend had no idea that he bumped into the guy, how did he know why he punched him? It sounds like there may be a bit more to the telling of this.

Regardless, if I were your friend, I would go to the cops post-haste, get a police report, take photos of the bruises, etc.
posted by arnicae at 4:00 PM on May 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, your friend needs to contact the police, do photos of the bruise and be seen by a medical professional.

When giving a statement, I think it would be more accurate to say "I walked past this person in the aisle. I am hearing impaired and also have balance issues. I assume I bumped his cart, but I honestly was not aware of doing anything like that. Then, he walked up to me in line and hit me. As far as I can tell, it was unprovoked. I am not aware of doing anything that provoked it."

This sucks. Sorry the world is such a crappy place.
posted by Michele in California at 4:20 PM on May 14, 2016 [11 favorites]

"I really don't agree with the recommendations to go to the store yourselves and chew them out"

Maybe this comment was deleted, but I did not see advice to "chew someone out"??

The staff at TJ's are almost universally lovely and helpful. Likewise it REALLY helps when you can provide video to the police. Here in LA I've had to email video when my car was broken into, also when another car was totaled in a hit and run accident. Both time I needed to facilitate getting the video to detectives. The hit and run accident person was indicted and plead guilty BECAUSE I tracked down and provided the video!!

It sucks this isn't tv where the police have endless resources to do footwork - but that's just how things are today.

Even if an official video of the incident has to come from TJ's corporate, it still helpful for the OP and their friend to facilitate that process by being involved.
posted by jbenben at 4:37 PM on May 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

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