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Black Friday + Walmart + Pepper Spray Battery = Jail

I hoped you guys all enjoyed your Cyber Monday, the hyper-marketed corporation-created online shopping holiday that ranks up there right next to Grandparent’s Day and Boss’s Day.  Because I bet it was a heck of a lot better than this year’s Black Friday, which included the use of pepper spray this time around.

If you didn’t see the story, apparently a Los Angeles woman was all too eager to get into her local Walmart and grab a video game console for her lucky (and probably ungrateful) son or daughter.  I say ungrateful because I’m just betting that if your parent is willing to brave a horde of angry shoppers just to get a gift for you, you probably are already used to getting what you want.  That or your mom or dad, you know, “care” about you or whatever.

Anyway, the store was scheduled to open at 10 p.m., but five minutes before staffers could get the doors open, the angry crowd did what angry crowds always do and turned violent.  Patrons started ripping open packages and it was at that point that the suspect decided to use her secret weapon and pepper sprayed the crowd to get her pick of the toys.  The woman’s identity still hasn’t been released by police yet, but she has turned herself into authorities.  Though she’s invoked her Fifth Amendment right and is refusing to talk to the police.

Insane, right?  I mean, who still does their Christmas shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, let alone on the day after Thanksgiving instead of in July like a reasonable person?  And since when did parents care so much about getting their kids what they actually want for Christmas?  I got socks, underwear, and sweatpants every year from my parents, and that’s what my kids are going to get to, instead of that Optimus Prime Transformer figure they explicitly asked about . . .

But seriously, I think this story illustrates why the whole Black Friday thing has gotten out of control.  When people start thinking that it’s okay to pepper spray other people just to buy a toy at a barely reduced price, then I think it’s time to bring the day to a close.  I would like to believe that people know that burning someone’s eyes in order to grab a gift isn’t a justification for battery.  And if you think this too, you’d be wrong because the competitive Walmart shopper brought the pepper spray on purpose according to news reports.

Lest anyone think what this woman did was okay, let me just run down what assault and battery in the criminal justice system really means.  A “battery” occurs when someone commits any non-consented physical contact against another person.  “Assault” is generally described as an attempted battery.  It’s when a person intends to physically contact another person without that person’s consent and the person is placed in imminent apprehension of the impending contact.

There’s no question that the suspect committed a battery.  Reports have already stated that she acted purposefully in spraying the other shoppers, though I suppose there may be a question as to whether the shoppers actually saw it coming.  And the latter, even if true won’t do much to reduce the woman’s sentence.  I don’t think that district attorneys are all that lenient when it comes to sentencing just because the assault portion of a battery is missing.  “Oh, so the crowd didn’t know you were about to burn their eyes with pepper spray just to pick up that Xbox?  What an angel you are . . . “

You all might also be thinking that all the jostling and pushing that occurred before, during, and after the shopping should also be considered assault and battery, and well, you’d be right.  For years these big box retailers have gotten away with hosting these chaotic and poorly organized annual shopping events.  Though the onus is on shoppers to not descend into chaos, retailers should know by now that they always do and take more steps to keep the peace.  Something as simple as 1) restricting the amount of shoppers in the store at one time and 2) hiring extra security to stand at each aisle would probably do wonders in keeping shoppers from tearing each other apart.  But that’s a blog for another time.


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