NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A man died Saturday following an incident at a Stop & Shop in Brooklyn in what witnesses describe as an attempt to hold an accused shoplifter.
Witnesses told CBS2 51-year-old Ralph Nimmons came into the store on Flatbush Avenue around 7:30 a.m. and was suspected of shoplifting. Customers said one minute, store employees were sitting on him; the next, first responders were rushing in to administer CPR.
Police said when officers arrived, they found Nimmons lying on the floor unconscious and unresponsive.
On Sunday, Stop and Shop issued a statement on the incident:
“We are saddened by the death that occurred at our Flatbush Avenue store on Saturday morning. Our deepest sympathies go out to the family. We continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials to ensure that the facts pertaining to this incident are fully and accurately determined.”
Witnesses described the scene to Rozner.
“He was just saying, ‘let me go, let me go, let me go,’” said one woman. “But then when he was on the ground, he said that he couldn’t breathe and he had a heart problem.”
“I saw this guy laying on the floor, and there was a man over him – sitting over him,” said another witness.
Another customer told Rozner a female bystander stepped in and offered to pay.
“She asked, ‘What’s going on? What happened? He stole something?’ He’s like, ‘I didn’t do nothing.’ And she pulled out her money to pay for whatever they said he stole, but they wouldn’t take her money. So they wrestled him and he didn’t want – he wasn’t trying to be held, he was trying to get out,” said Jacene McDonald.
Flatbush resident Christina Hutchinson says she often saw Nimmons on the sidewalk of the block where she lives.
“This is insane,” she told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. “There’s nothing there that valuable.”
Nobody answered the door at Nimmons’ last known address on East 21st Street. On the block, he’s well known and described by some as homeless.
“That’s not right for them to do something like that they could’ve pushed him out the store and told him not to come back,” Flatbush resident Melissa Drawhoren said.
Some shoppers wished Nimmons had just asked for assistance.
“I would have just pulled out two dollars from my pocket and given it to him to shop and see, I would have bought it for him and asked if he needed more money,” Bea Smith said.
A pastor at the church across the street from the Stop & Shop say they’re praying for Nimmons and his family.
“Their intentions weren’t to maybe harm him or anything,” Flatbush resident Alyssa Colon said. “They guy just wanted some cookies and they tackled him for it.
The medical examiner is working to determine the cause of Nimmons’ death as police continue to investigate whether or not what happened to him constitutes a crime.