OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- Whole Foods will no longer allow its security guards to carry guns beginning Monday, Sept. 7, after a violent incident where a guard beat a shopper at an Oakland store so badly the person had to be hospitalized.
The new policy applies to all 43 grocery stores in the Northern California region, and is in response to customer feedback, according to spokesperson Beth Krauss.
The change follows a much-publicized beating at the Oakland Lake Merritt store the previous Thursday evening.
A security guard working for Aladdin Security got into a fight with a shopper and beat him unconscious.
Photos of the bleeding man were widely seen and by Saturday, Whole Foods said it was replacing the security firm at the Bay Place store.
"It's a good step, and I commend Whole Foods for acting so swiftly, " witness Zoe Marks told KTVU.
Marks and her sister Julia were at the check stand next to the altercation, and snapped pictures showing the customer, sprawled on the ground, bleeding profusely.
"People were afraid and shouting at the security guard to stop," described Marks. "But he slammed the guy twice against the concrete wall, covered his nose and mouth, and cut off his breathing, and threw him out the door."
The manager of the store, in a statement, called the incident "horrible and disturbing" and vowed to "do whatever is in our power to help justice be served."
The injured man was tended to by paramedics, and transported to a hospital as Oakland Police officers took a report.
"We are working to ensure our neighbors are always welcome, comfortable, and safe in our store," continued the statement from Earl Brizee, who leads the store.
"It's scary, I would not want that person working for me, " incoming security chief Gloria Lawrence told KTVU.
Lawrence runs American Guard Services of Concord, which is replacing the ousted firm at the Lake Merritt store, as Whole Foods declares a "zero tolerance policy for violence."
"You can take someone down but you don't have to have them bloodied, and you should be trained to de-escalate the situation," Lawrence told KTVU.
It is unclear what started the conflict and whether the customer was drunk and had punched or spit on store employees, as some witnesses have claimed on social media.
A company spokesperson says there is no in-store video of the incident, and that executives are still trying to pinpoint what happened, and why.
"No matter what, guards have to remember it's a retail environment, and they shouldn't intimidate people who are there to shop," said AGS President Lawrence. "If they're not comfortable with the public, then they shouldn't be working in retail."
The Marks sisters say, from their perspective, the beaten man did not deserve what happened to him.
"No matter what he did, there's no reason someone should be knocked unconscious or bleeding from the head, "insisted Julia Marks, "because there are nonviolent ways to process the situation and calm someone down."
Whole Foods is promising community meetings in the near future to mend relationships with its Oakland customers.