LAYTON — Fired Utah workers at the center of a wrongful termination lawsuit against Walmart have “high interest” in the case of two Walmart managers in Texas who tackled a gunman accused of shooting an officer to death last week, a source close to the Utah cases said Thursday.
At issue is an apparent disparity in how the big box retailer dealt with the Utah workers and the Texas workers who all intervened in dangerous situations.
Managers Lincoln Lemere and Archie Jordy last Friday tackled suspect Brandon Daniel at a Walmart in Austin and helped subdue him until police arrived. Investigators said the intoxicated Daniel shot officer Jaime Padron in the neck and chest.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo praised the managers’ actions at Padron’s funeral service Wednesday, KXAN-TV reported.
“They jumped in there that night,” Acevedo said. “They put their lives at risk.”
Walmart spokeswoman Dianna Gee also had praise for the workers in an Associated Press report, saying “the associates displayed courage under these extreme circumstances.”
Both Lemere and Jordy are still employed with Walmart, the company confirmed.
It was a far different outcome early last year for four Layton Walmart workers who were fired after disarming an armed shoplifter — who also happened to be a wanted fugitive.
According to the workers’ accounts, Trent Allen Longton rushed toward worker Gabriel Stewart in the asset protection office, pressed him against the wall, put a gun to his back and said, “Don’t make me do this.”
Surveillance video obtained through a public records request appears to confirm the sequence of events. Workers Shawn Ray and Justin Richins quickly disarmed Longton, then detained him until police arrived.
“You have to make a decision — do I fight for my life, or do I stand here and watch,” fired asset protection coordinator Lori Poulsen said in February of 2011.
Poulsen, Ray and Stewart joined a lawsuit last May along with three fired workers from Walmart stories in Cedar Hills and West Valley City, claiming wrongful termination and a constitutional violation of their rights to self-defense. The former Cedar Hills manager had broken up a domestic violence incident involving a co-worker. The ex-West Valley workers tried to stop a shoplifter who pulled a knife.
Neither the workers nor attorney Lorraine Brown could comment on the Austin case Thursday because of the pending litigation.
A source close to the Utah cases, however, said there is “high interest” in the Austin shooting and Walmart’s subsequent response as the lawsuit proceeds.
Walmart did not see similarities in the Utah and Texas cases.
“These are two entirely different issues,” spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said in a statement, referring back to the Layton case. “In (the Austin) case our associates acted to aid a fallen police officer and protect customers and their fellow associates. We’re thankful that our associates showed such passion and courage.”
Salt Lake City-based attorney Greg Skordas – who has no connection to any of the Walmart cases — said there is wisdom to companies’ “disengage and withdraw” policies, considering safety and liability concerns.
“An employer is going to say if you and I are shopping at Walmart and we see a shoplifter, we don’t have any obligation to do anything and Walmart would say to its employees, ‘You don’t either,’” Skordas said.