On the evening of April 10, 2016, a shoplifting suspect was attempting to steal three flatscreen televisions from a metro Atlanta Walmart when he was confronted by J.D. Ferguson, one of the store’s asset protection officers. As Ferguson approached the suspected shoplifter and asked for a receipt for the TVs, the situation quickly turned violent when the man pulled out a gun and shot Ferguson in the stomach. Ferguson was immediately rushed to Gwinnett Medical Center, but he died a short time later from his injuries.
This is how quickly that lives—and families–can change forever. This is the same type of situation that almost all of us in the loss prevention community have faced on countless occasions in retail stores all across the country. Many of us can tell stories about situations that escalated, facing desperate individuals that take foolish steps to avoid apprehension and the potential loss of personal freedom. Unfortunately, there are also those of us who can no longer share such stories.
We never know what we’re walking into when we attempt to detain a suspected thief. We can only guess at the circumstances that led them to this ill-advised situation and the potential consequences of their actions. We’re trained on how to manage these situations and how to take the necessary precautions to avoid risks and injury. But the harsh reality is that tragedy can still strike at any time. It could have happened to any one of us—likely on any number of occasions and in any number of different situations.
There are times when loss prevention can be a dangerous profession, and the last thing that any of us wants is a reminder like the events that unfolded on the evening of April 10th. But the tragedy reaches beyond the events of that day.
Honoring the Family
Jaseramie Dion “JD” Ferguson had worked at the store for seven months when he was shot. But it was much more than a young career that JD was launching. A married father of three, he left behind his wife, Tiana, a 3-year-old daughter Aryana, a 1- year-old son Jordan, and their 3-month-old daughter Ava. We lost a member of our extended family with the passing of this young man. But we must also remember that a wife lost her husband, and 3 children lost their father.
Representing the Loss Prevention Foundation and the Loss Prevention Benevolent Fund, I had the distinct honor of visiting with JD’s wife Tiana back in May. She requested to meet me at the very store where JD lost his life. And while I was taken back by the courage that this young woman has shown and the dedication that she has for her young family, I was overwhelmed by the gratitude that Mrs. Ferguson expressed when the Loss Prevention Benevolence Fund presented her with a check for $10,000 to help assist with the financial responsibilities that she was facing in the wake of this difficult time.
No one should feel that pain, and the financial assistance that was provided can never make up for this family’s loss. But the relief and appreciation that rushed across her face was overpowering. Tiana was accompanied by her loving family, who showed the support that I knew would help her get through these difficult times. On behalf of the LP/AP community, we would like to send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Ferguson family.
A Moment for Self-Reflection
I was flooded by emotion when I drove away that day. A loving and dedicated young man whom I never had the pleasure of meeting was torn tragically away from his family. Yet I was able to meet that adoring family; one that is showing the strength to live each day with the love and memory of this devoted husband and father.
As the tears were streaming down my cheek I simply could not escape putting myself in this situation. I started my career as an 18-year-old store detective, and found my beautiful wife 5 years later. As my family continued to grow with the blessing of my children, my loss prevention career helped put a roof over my family and food on the table. All these years later I am grateful for the success that I’ve found, the friends that I’ve made, and the many things that I’ve accomplished.
But I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if I would have been torn away from my family. There are times when bad things happen to good people, and we simply can’t explain why. In the hundreds of shoplifting cases that I was involved in, there were several times when things went sideways. Fortunately, my wife and kids were spared this kind of pain.
I am fortunate enough to have witnessed how the loss prevention profession has changed for the good over the last forty years. I have witnessed the birth of the Loss Prevention Foundation, the impact of industry associations such as RILA and the NRF, and the influence that publications like LP Magazine have had on the growth and development of the industry. All of this has given us a new breed of loss prevention professional.
But I also realized that I was simply an older version of JD. Thus far I have made it through a long journey which could have turned out quite differently. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to meet JD’s wife and family. JD was built to serve and protect others, and I am thankful that there are still those like JD who will serve others regardless of risk and rewards.
The Loss Prevention Benevolent Fund
This is precisely why we have resources like the Loss Prevention Benevolent Fund. Administered by the Loss Prevention Foundation, this program was established as a way to honor LP professionals and to offer assistance to their families who suffer a loss of their loved one while conducting the duties of our profession.
In addition to distributing funds to the families of the fallen, the LPBF will also provide financial grants to eligible participants who experience a verifiable economic hardship as a result of qualifying circumstances. Situations that could qualify for a grant include serious medical issues, death of a dependent, natural disaster, no permanent shelter, homelessness and other circumstance that can lead to personal hardships.
We ask our great LP/AP community to reach out and show their support in these times of exceptional need. As a profession, we cannot allow the families of our fallen colleagues and friends to mourn their losses without voice or support.
We are always seeking individuals, organizations and businesses who can donate to the fund. We also need volunteers to help raise funds and promote awareness. One hundred percent of all raised proceeds go back to these families in their time of greatest need. Please visit www.losspreventionfoundation.org to learn more.