Home Depot Associate Dies Following Confrontation with Thief

Tragic incident likely the product of organized retail crime

Image Courtesy of the Hillsborough, North Carolina Police Department

A Home Depot employee has died weeks after confronting a callous thief at a Home Depot in Hillsborough, North Carolina. The disturbing incident, which occurred on October 18th, was caught on the store’s surveillance footage.

In the footage, 9-year associate Gary Rasor can be seen stepping out of the booth in the store’s garden department and approaching a masked suspect as he is attempting to exit the store with a shopping cart filled with three pressure washers. Rasor attempts to step in front of the suspected thief and extends his arm while trying to deter the alleged theft, but when confronted, the suspect can be seen using his right arm to violently shove the employee to avoid detention, sending Rasor to the concrete floor while the suspect continues to push the cart out of the store.

Surveillance footage shows the suspect, described as a black male approximately 6-feet-tall wearing a black Calvin Klein sweatshirt and a mask, thrust a forceful arm across the seasoned employee’s shoulders, shoving him to the ground as he kept walking. He then flees the scene in a white, four-door Hyundai Sonata with “obscured” North Carolina temporary tags, according to police investigators.

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As Rasor falls to the floor, he can be seen striking his head on a potted plant as he violently hits the concrete. The 83-year-old man was left unable to walk, being rushed to the hospital while suffering a broken pelvis and hip, as well as having a mild heart attack. He was later transferred to a rehab facility where his condition continued to deteriorate. On December 1st, weeks after the initial attack, he died due to complications from his injuries. Hillsborough Police have confirmed his death was linked to the injuries he suffered as a result of the incident and that the medical examiner has ruled Rasor’s death a homicide.

Mourning a Tragic Loss

“We are heartbroken by the loss of our associate Gary,” said Margaret Smith, a spokesperson for Home Depot. “He was an amazing friend, husband, father, and grandfather, always willing to help anyone. Hillsborough associates just celebrated his 83rd birthday with him. Right now, our top concern is supporting his family and our associates during this difficult time.”

Rasor worked at the store for nine years. His wife said that before his death she and her husband had plans to retire, travel, and meet their new grandchild for the first time. The couple had even bought plane tickets to visit family during the holidays, and never gave up hope that he would recover from the multiple fractures and other injuries.

Rasor was an Army veteran who throughout his life worked in various industries, including insurance, construction, and fencing before moving to Durham and working at the Hillsborough Home Depot. He is survived by his wife, son, two daughters, three stepdaughters, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

His son Jeff added: “It’s just beyond our comprehension that someone would do this for a couple of power washers… that just is mind-boggling.”

Organized Retail Crime, Not Shoplifting

Unfortunately, Jeff Rasor’s comments actually point to a disturbing trend that has taken the retail industry by storm over the past several years—this is likely not a case of shoplifting, but rather a glimpse of what has become a multi-billion-dollar problem. It’s likely not “a couple of power washers,” but a much more serious threat to our employees, our customers, our stores, and our communities.

Image Courtesy of Hillsborough, NC Police Department

The suspect rolled out what appeared to be a Ryobi 1900 PSI Electric Pressure Washer, which retails for $179; a 2700 PSI Brushless Electric Pressure Washer, which retails for $419; and a 2000 PSI Electric Pressure Washer, which retails for $239. These are not exactly items that one might expect are being stolen for personal use.

According to reports, Rasor’s wife claims that her husband recognized the suspect. “He knows the guy is a thief,” she says. “He’s been there. He’s seen him in the store before and what he told me was that sometimes the guy will buy one or two items so he has a receipt, and then he’ll add more stuff to his cart and flash the receipt.”

At this point we can only speculate the alleged thief’s motivation, however it can be strongly speculated that this $837 theft was an incident involving organized retail crime rather than a simple case of shoplifting.

Organized retail crime (ORC) involves illegally obtaining retail merchandise in substantial quantities through both theft and fraud as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. Traditionally, the primary objective of these professional crime rings is to steal from retail organizations for the purpose of turning our products into financial gain rather than for personal use. However, in recent years these goals have expanded beyond exploiting retail merchandise. With the global reach of technology, organized retail crime can impact almost every resource within the retail enterprise.

Whether loosely organized or coordinated under well-planned rules and practices, organized retail crime can operate on a local, regional, national, or international scale. These intricate criminal operations are responsible for tens of billions of dollars in losses each year that can devastate a retail business. Considering the potential financial gains, many of these incidents are becoming exponentially more violent. People are being threatened. People are getting hurt. And in some circumstances, people are getting killed.

Loss Beyond the Dollars

Whether loosely organized or coordinated under well-planned rules and practices, organized retail crime can operate on a local, regional, national, or international scale and is responsible for tens of billions of dollars in losses each year. Theft operations can cover a spectrum of possibilities from simple to extremely complex, and teams can steal thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise in a single day. Multi-million-dollar cases have become far too common, with operations evolving into criminal enterprises rather than isolated thefts.

Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story—and the threat can strike us in other ways as well. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), working in the retail industry is one of the highest risk jobs for workplace violence. In an environment where we invite the public into our stores—where money is handled, products are available, and individuals of varying means and agendas are received, violence can come in many forms, from verbal abuse and threats to physical violence. These situations are very real, to the point where many retailers now provide training to their employees on methods for avoiding and diffusing such incidents.

Still, among the most potentially volatile situations often occur when dealing with those involved in organized retail crime. While most customers are good, honest, hard-working people that simply wish to buy the things that they want or need, we also occasionally deal with individuals making poor decisions, attempting to acquire those products without payment. To get the things that they want—or to use those goods to get other things that they want—some people steal. However, it’s dealing with the actual event and confronting those that have followed through on these poor decisions where things can get much more complicated.

Image Courtesy of Hillsborough, NC Police Department

This is not the same as dealing with an angry or disgruntled customer. When dealing with shoplifters or those involved in organized retail crime, we never know exactly who we are dealing with or what we might face. Fear and desperation are completely different emotions and the results can be unpredictable. It can make people do foolish things despite their motives or background. From the thief’s perspective the consequences of their actions can include everything from embarrassment to a loss of personal freedom—an outcome that many will try to avoid at all costs. We can’t make decisions based on preconceived notions or appearances. Situations can turn violent regardless of the individual involved and someone can end up getting hurt.

Over the last several years there have been increased levels of violence, threats of violence, intimidation, and use of weapons by those stealing from retail stores. It’s through our ability to safely and effectively navigate that critical point of confrontation that the situation will be successfully managed—or pivot into something that we didn’t want or expect. In these situations, the confrontation should be avoided. Let it go.

In the case of Gary Rasor, what began as a theft is now being investigated as a possible homicide. A dedicated and loyal employee, valued by his company and loved by his family and friends, got in the way. In a matter of seconds, lives changed, a family grieves, and a community mourns.

The perpetrator remains at-large and the hunt continues for a suspect branded a “menace to society.” Hillsborough Police are urging anyone with information to contact them at 919 296 9562.

Confronting those involved in the commission of theft acts in the retail setting always has the potential to escalate. To read more on the subject, go to “Shoplifter Safety: Knowing When to Let It Go” from LP Magazine.

 

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