Eli O’Dowd was headed into the Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store Thursday night when she saw the commotion. Two yellow-shirted security guards were pulling a woman to the ground as a small boy looked on.
“I just couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t walk by,” she tells SFR.
O’Dowd says the security guards were being rough. Too rough. They pushed the woman into the boy—her son—as he watched what was happening to his mother, she says, and he hit his head on the car.
“That little boy was just frozen,” she says.
The woman wasn’t quiet about what was happening and a small crowd began to form. O’Dowd and another man began shooting video with their phones.
A security guard with a faux-hawk haircut and sunglasses has the woman on the ground. He and another guard have strung together two pairs of handcuffs around the woman’s hands, which are behind her back.
Over the next 15 minutes, a scene unfolds that O’Dowd and others felt was needlessly physical. They’ve asked police to investigate, but it’s not clear whether law enforcement is looking into it.
O’Dowd complained to police, to DeVargas Center, to the security company—Allied Universal Security according to patches on the guards’ shirts—and to Sprouts Farmers Market. No one at the mall or Allied Universal Security responded to SFR’s inquiries.
An initial incident report from Santa Fe police indicates the woman potentially faces shoplifting and battery charges. Police wouldn’t confirm whether the department is investigating the security guard. A department spokesman acknowledged there’s no paper trail indicating that’s the case.
As the small crowd looks on, the video shows the guards get the woman onto her feet. She refuses to go back into the store and tells a man who was with her to take her son home. She then gets upset as the other guard apparently takes her purse, which she says has her house keys in it.
The security guard has hold of her arms above the cuffs and accuses her of resisting as people around begin to protest. Some of them hurl insults his way. Several different voices can be heard questioning his use of force.
“This is private property, folks,” the security guard says. “Go ahead and learn the laws.”
After he has the woman on the ground a second time, face down on the pavement as he stands astride her legs, the security guard who has taken charge of the situation whistles at the other: “Let’s get me a dollar amount on this felony shoplifting, please.”
The initial police report shows a value of $94.19. That’s a petty misdemeanor in New Mexico. It’s an arrestable offense, but can also be handled with a citation. Felony shoplifting begins with a value of more than $500.
When a Sprouts manager shows up to tell security guards he’s looked at surveillance video of the woman wheeling a cart out toward the curb—where the woman says she planned to look at melons on display—he tells
O’Dowd that the security officers are mall security, and not employed by Sprouts.
Eventually, those gathered around begin to more or less ignore the security guards. A woman puts the suspect’s sandals back on her, then puts her phone on speaker and dial’s the suspect’s mother.
The crowd doesn’t ever really question whether the woman is actually guilty of stealing groceries. In fact, several times on the video they protest that whatever she may have purloined, it’s no reason to keep her on the ground as they wait for police.
When officers do arrive, the situation calms down a fair bit. As the video ends, it’s clear officers are investigating. Just what they looked at, and what they’ll find, has yet to be determined. The preliminary police report redacts the woman’s name. She has not technically been charged by police.
O’DOWD’S VIDEO (contains foul language):