Whole Foods suspends Oakland security guard after alleged beating

OAKLAND, Calif. (BCN) -- An armed security guard alleged to have assaulted a shopper at Whole Foods Market in Oakland Thursday night will no longer be working at any company store, a company spokeswoman said. 

Police received a call at 9:42 p.m. from Oakland firefighters about an unconscious man at the store at 230 Bay Place, police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said.

Security at the store had called the fire department, Watson said.

A person claiming to be a witness to the incident said in a Facebook post that the guard slammed the shopper repeatedly against concrete pillars, put the person in a chokehold, restrained him, and threw him face down on the pavement.

The witness said in the post that the shopper was trying to buy groceries with an electronic benefit transfer card, which provides people with food stamp benefits.

Prior to the alleged assault the guard was intervening between an employee and the shopper, who allegedly made physical contact with the employee, company spokeswoman Beth Krauss said.

The guard was suspended this morning as Whole Foods officials looked into the incident with its security firm, Krauss said.

The guard did not shoot or threaten to shoot the shopper, who is in stable condition, she said.

Guards at some Whole Foods stores, including the Oakland store, are armed because the store is located in an area that has experienced violence toward employees, Krauss said. The guards are meant to protect employees and customers and are available to walk either to their vehicles, she said.

Whole Foods officials are not aware of any video recording of the alleged assault, but are still investigating, Krauss said.

Whole Foods Market "takes a zero tolerance approach to violence," she said. 

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