CVS probes shoplifting suspect's death, puts worker on leave
May 10, 2010 11:40 AM
The conduct of the drug store manager involved in the death of a suspected shoplifter is under investigation by his employer and he will not be allowed to return to work until that probe is complete, the company said today.
"We are investigating this unfortunate incident and are fully cooperating with police," CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said in an e-mail in which he acknowledged the company investigation.
DeAngelis refused to discuss company policy regarding employee handling of suspected shoplifters and if the store manager violated those guidelines. The store manager, reached by the Tribune at his west suburban home, declined to comment.
Chicago police earlier said no charges would be filed against the employee who on Saturday put a chokehold on Anthony Kyser, 35, whose death was ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Meanwhile, the former wife of the shoplifting suspect questioned this morning why he had to die over a minor offense.
Ann Marie Balboa, who in September divorced Kyser, her husband of 5½ years, described him as good-hearted and credited him for helping raise her three boys.
Although Kyser had a criminal past, she said, two things surprised her about the chain of events that led to his death on Saturday morning: The fact that, Chicago police say, he stole toothpaste and crayons from a CVS pharmacy, and was killed by an employee from there when he did so.
She disagreed with the decision not to pursue charges against the store manager.
"How's it accidental?" Balboa said. "You're choking the [expletive] out of somebody. He [the employee] should be fired. He should be facing criminal charges. You don't take someone's life over toothpaste."
Authorities said Kyser was shoplifting from the CVS Pharmacy in the 2600 block of South Pulaski Road just before 11 a.m. Saturday. He was chased out of the store and ran into an alley next to the building. Kyser fell unconscious during a struggle with the employee of the pharmacy, officials said.
Kyser, whose last known address was in the 1400 block of South Hamlin Avenue, was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:38 a.m.
Balboa said she had also heard reports that more than one person may have been involved in Kyser's death. "When you're choking someone, you have to be really, really strong," she said, adding that when Kyser died, one of her sons said to her, "Mom, pops was strong. Mom, it had to be more than one person."
Balboa said she used to work in a retail store and said employees aren't supposed to chase shoplifters out of the store.
"You risk your life on the line," she said. "You don't go chasing the thief because you don't know what (weapons) they had."
Police this morning said there were no indications that anyone other than the store manager was involved in Kyser's death.
Balboa also stressed that there were unanswered questions about Kyser's death. "I want to know was the toothpaste on him? Did he drop it in the store?" Balboa said. "We need answers. I really need to know why he was strangled like that. Was it that serious? Over toothpaste? I'm not understanding that."
Kyser's criminal background includes a 2005 drug conviction in Cook County and a 1999 burglary conviction in Lake County, Ind. But despite his criminal record, Balboa said her former husband had a good heart.
She said friends tell her how well-mannered her three boys -- ages, 18, 14 and 13 -- are, and Balboa credited Kyser with helping them grow up that way. "Pops," as Kyser's stepchildren affectionately called him, would take them to their basketball games and even help coach them.
Balboa said she and Kyser were together for several years prior to their marriage, which she said had its share of "ups and downs."
"I wish our marriage could have been continued," Balboa said. "But if I could have one of his last hugs, it would be perfect. He would want [the three boys] to go to college."
"Here is the father of someone's son, an uncle, a friend who is no longer with us."
Jeremy Gorner and Jennifer Delgado
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