Death of Man Who Struggled with Loss Prevention Ruled a Homicide

The death of a Chicago, Illinois, man after he was restrained by loss prevention in a Walmart parking lot on the Northwest Side has been ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Donnell J. Burns, 23, died primarily of “stress and asphyxia” after struggling with the loss prevention associates, the office said. Contributing factors were toxic levels of the drug phencyclidine, or PCP, in his blood and abnormalities in his coronary artery. PCP is an anesthetic that can cause hallucinations. It also can cause a cardiovascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack, seizures or panic attacks, said Dr. Samuel Grief of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Burns and a woman had been stopped by security officers around 4:30 p.m. after they tried to return some stolen merchandise, Chicago police said at the time. They resisted and police officers were called, police said. Responding officers found Burns handcuffed on the pavement and “experiencing a health issue,” police said. He was taken to Norwegian Hospital, where he was pronounced. The woman with him was charged with one misdemeanor count of retail theft. Chicago police said no one has been arrested and detectives continue to investigate. It was not immediately clear whether charges would be pursued. The state’s attorney’s office did not immediately return calls.

In an email explaining what happened to Burns, Becky Schlikerman, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, explained that homicide does not inherently indicate criminal intent.  “Intent to cause death is a common element but is not required for classification as homicide,” Schlikerman wrote in an email. The corporate director of communications for Walmart did not respond to specific questions about the case, including whether the loss prevention associates involved in the incident are still working at the store.  A video of the incident was widely circulated on social media – one post on Facebook was shared several hundreds of times after Burns died.  [Source: Chicago Tribune]

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