Target is under fire over accusations that it drove an employee to suicide after forcing him into a “walk of shame” over theft accusations.
Graham Gentles, a 22-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, was “paraded” around a Pasadena Target store in handcuffs after he was accused of stealing, even though he was never charged with a crime, ABC7-Los Angeles reported.
On July 18, three days after the empty accusations, Gentles leapt to his death from a hotel roof.
“He said that it was the worst day of his life because he didn’t understand what was going on,” the man’s mother, Virginia Gentles, told ABC7. “They humiliated him. … That was their purpose.”
Virginia Gentles has since filed a lawsuit accusing Target of false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, saying management forced her son to take a “walk of shame” in front of other employees and customers.
“The intention of the policy is to humiliate and shame, and in this particular instance, the policy had its intended effect with tragic results,” Patrick McNicholas, Gentles’ lawyer, told ABC7.
Graham Gentles was confronted by police and store security when he arrived for work on July 15, according to the lawsuit. Police handcuffed Gentles after having him empty his pockets. Officers then brought him to an office at the direction of store management.
Gentles suffered from extreme emotional distress after the incident, the lawsuit said.
“He said, ‘Mom, I’ve never stolen,'” Virginia Gentles told ABC7. “He said, ‘They did the walk of shame, I had to do the walk of shame. But they only do that when people steal, and I’ve never stolen a thing.’”
McNicholas called Target an “extended family” to Graham Gentles.
“He had indicated that he felt safe there,” the attorney said. “This is where his friends were, so he felt as though he lost all of that in one moment.”
Multiple employees accused of theft have been forced into the “walk of shame,” the lawsuit said.
“One of the primary purposes of this lawsuit is that Target stops the policy immediately [and] recognizes the harm that it could do,” McNicholas said.
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