Wal-Mart never ceases to amaze. It’s a curse and a blessing depending on who you ask. It’s a place that matches prices of competitors – even without coupons, a company that employs the elderly, while also providing one of the worst employment opportunities around. At least if you ask the Wal-Mart employees who work there.
As a result of the “Low, Low Prices” offered there, it’s not surprising to hear that the security system at Wal-Mart, enforced by senior citizens, can sometimes allow rampant theft to take place, and even more serious crime like the instance below.
If nothing else, it makes you think about where you go and who else is there. Standing in line for lunch, about to get onto the freeway with your windows down, or even in your cube at work. Crazy is everywhere, it seems.
And while most places of work are not immune to workplace violence, most also don’t stock alcohol, guns, and bullets either. Not that that’s a bad thing – but it does seem to merit some additional thought to security. When something like this happens – should the store share some of the blame?
Elijah Payne – The 18 Year Old Man In Black
Elijah Payne… He became upset with some of his co-workers at the local Wal-Mart and decided that it would be a good idea to go out to his car at 2am… paint his face black… and stroll back into the employee lounge and start shooting up the place.
While police and prosecutors determine further possible charges to file against a Wal-Mart employee accused of holding co-workers hostage at gunpoint Sunday, employees who were in the line of fire are trying to get on with their lives.
It is not easy, they said.
Yvonne Barton, a third-shift door greeter at the Yopp Road store who was one of more than a dozen employees held captive, has not been back to work yet. On Tuesday, she was riding in her daughter’s car and experienced a flat tire.
“The loud noise of the tire popping just left me zombie-fied,” she said.
Wendy Maready said she tried to tough it out and go back to work the night after the incident, but she said she had to go home.
“I went back to work the next night and someone dropped a box on the floor behind me. It made a loud noise, and I totally lost it,” she said.
Both women are reeling after they say a co-worker took shots at them.
Elijah Payne, 18, of Burgaw Highway, was charged by the Jacksonville Police Department with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, first-degree kidnapping, and discharging a firearm into occupied property, according to an arrest warrant. His bond remains at $75,000.
He will also be charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction, because the Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun police said he used in the incident was shortened at the barrel and the stock.
Maready said she remembers Payne recently buying a hacksaw at Wal-Mart along with some grocery items.
Ashley Hardie, a corporate spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said Payne was hired when the new store opened in January, but is no longer employed by the company. She said all employees go through a background check and drug screening.
Maready said she often gave Payne a ride to work, but when she went by his mobile home the night of the incident, he was already gone.
The 10 p.m. third shift started like it always does, she said.
“Payne seemed fine,” Maready said. “We took our lunch break at 2 a.m. There are usually more people in the break room, but several people went out to McDonald’s.”
While everyone else was eating, police say Payne went out to a vehicle in the parking lot and retrieved the sawed-off shotgun he brought with him to work. He then smuggled the weapon into Wal-Mart in a tent bag and went to the bathroom and applied camouflage face paint, officials said.
Barton said that, as a door greeter, she knows greeters are not supposed to allow employees to bring in any type of bag. She also said she was not happy with the level of security at the store.
“If we had any security, he wouldn’t been able to make it all the way to the break room like that,” Barton said.
“I heard this loud explosion coming from the break room, and I thought the microwave had blew up,” she said. “The four women sitting with me got up and went to the window to see what was happening.”
Maready said Payne was standing in the middle of the break room, but at that moment she focused on the shotgun and the face paint.
Barton said she was one of the employees standing at the window, and if Maready had not pushed her out of the way, she would have been hit with a shotgun blast.
“Glass hit us in the face and one woman was cut,” Maready said. “I called 911.”
Maready said she told the operator that she was in the new Wal-Mart and someone was shooting up the break room – she said she had not recognized Payne at that point.
Then Maready said she heard Payne shouting, “Get off the (f-ing) phone!”
She hung up her cell phone and began to panic. At some point, she realized the gunman was Payne, she said.
“It didn’t make sense,” she said. “He was always so polite. If you were struggling with something, he would stop what he was doing and help. I never heard him say anything negative about anyone.”
Maready said she remembered some of the male employees picking on Payne, but they were just joking around. Most of those people were no longer employed by Wal-Mart long before the incident, Maready said.
She said Deshotel was present for some of the teasing, but she never saw him take part in any of it.
“I don’t get what made Elijah do what he did,” she said.
Maready was snapped back into her present danger when she said Payne forced two male employees to crawl on their bellies into the smoking area.
Barton said two or three more shotgun blasts blew through the wall above where they were lying on the floor.
“Then he called for Chris Deshotel to come out of the smoking break room,” Maready said. “I cannot believe Chris actually walked out there to him.”
Payne told everyone else they had 10 seconds to get out, and Barton said they all ran out of the break room as a group.
Maready said they were running as fast as they could for their lives when law enforcement officers passed them in the toy aisles on the way to the break room. She said she is pretty sure the whole thing lasted about six minutes.
Deshotel said he grabbed Payne and forced him to relinquish the shotgun just seconds before police swarmed the break room.
“This could have been a whole lot worse than it was,” Deputy Police Chief David Shipp said Sunday.
“I hope I can wrap my mind around all this after talking to them,” Maready said. “I have had very little sleep since Sunday and have nightmares when I do.”
Though these events happen everywhere, as someone who visits Wal-Mart quite regularly for groceries other than produce, I’ve seen a lot that makes me wonder at what point a multi-billion dollar company is responsible for enhancing security. At what point do you start compromising on the bottom line?