It was 7:00 PM on a warm evening in September.  There was nothing interesting on cable or the net.  Boring…

Janet sent Rick a text…he called back. By 7:30 P.M. they were at the mall, just looking around. By 8:30 P.M., they were  under arrest and would eventually be charged with felony retail theft and felony murder.

While in a jewelry store, Janet had removed the price tag from a pair of $329.00 earrings and dropped them into her purse. The store’s loss prevention officer saw her remove the tag and conceal the earrings. The officer followed Janet as she passed the store’s cashier without purchasing any items.

The security officer stopped Janet outside of the store, questioned her, and formally detained her for shoplifting.  Rick, who had been waiting for Janet outside the store, began arguing with the officer, pushed him, and caused the officer to fall and strike his head on the concrete floor of the mall. 

The security officer died immediately as a result of his injuries. Rick was charged with the murder of the security officer, Janet was charged with felony retail theft…AND with felony murder, even though she never touched the security officer.

Many states have felony-murder statutes, or follow what is known as the “felony murder rule”. That rule states that where a death is caused during the commission of–or an attempt to commit–a felony, each person charged with the commission of the underlying felony can also be charged with felony murder.


Aaron was shopping at a large retail store.  He took a comb and a tube of hair gel from a store shelf and concealed the items in his jacket pocket. Their total value was approximately $11.75. He walked past the store’s cashier without paying for the items and walked out of the store. 

The store’s manager ran after Aaron, identified himself as the store manager and shouted for Aaron to stop. The manager chased Aaron, caught him, placed his arm tightly around Aaron’s throat, and both Aaron and the store manager dropped to the ground.

By the time the police and EMS had arrived, Aaron was dead. The store manager was not charged with Aaron’s death.


The names, locations, and identities used in the cases above have been changed, but similar occurrences with fatal outcomes  happen with increasing frequency each year in the United States.

The number of deaths which occur each year in the United States which are the result of shoplifting is difficult to determine.  The methods of reporting these cases differ among state and local jurisdictions, as do the criteria for such reporting. However, some data appear to indicate that the number of these incidents may have  increased during the past 10 years (See 

Efforts are being made to verify, categorize, and  use these and other data to prevent circumstances which result in the loss of life of suspected shoplifters, law enforcement officers, and  loss prevention and other store employees. 

The Tier- 1 Program provides education, information, assessment, and referral services for first-time arrested retail theft offenders. Its  multi-disciplinary staff  has also provided consultive and research services for more than 27 years to retail merchants, law enforcement, and members of the judiciary who want to establish self-supporting alternative sentencing and intervention services for individuals charged with retail theft.


© Michael J. Pisani,2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Pisani and Tier1Program with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.