A Brooklyn man died on Saturday after workers at a local Stop & Shop who suspected him of shoplifting, tackled him to the ground and sat on him, according to CBS New York.
The city’s medical examiner is now working to find the root cause resulting in the death of Ralph Nimmons, 51. Authorities are investigating whether the employees actions constitute as a crime–no charges have been filed.
The incident took place around 7:30 a.m. Saturday at a Stop & Shop grocery store located in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. Store staffers told the New York Daily News that they saw him attempt to take a store cake.
Witnesses who spoke with CBS New York say the scuffle escalated quickly–one second employees were sitting on him, the next minute he was unconscious. When emergency workers arrived, they found Simmons unresponsive. He was rushed to nearby Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“He was just saying, ‘let me go, let me go, let me go,’” one woman said in an interview with CBS. “But then when he was on the ground, he said that he couldn’t breathe and he had a heart problem.”
Another witness named Jacene McDonald told the outlet that she saw someone offer to pay for stolen item, but employees refused.
“Someone volunteered to pay for his food. She pulled out her money to pay for whatever they said he stole, but they wouldn’t take her money,” McDonald said “It’s like whatever he was stealing – couple dollars – was worth his life?”
Several people who spoke with the Daily News said Nimmons was homeless and often visited the area looking for food. He went by the nickname “Star” because of his intelligence and bright personality.
“He was a nice person,” said Mohammed Said, 55, a longtime employee of a nearby deli. “But he was sick” with heart and breathing problems, Said added in his interview with the Daily News.
Stop & Shop has released a statement to CBS, offering their condolences to Simmons’ family.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family. We continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials to ensure that the facts pertaining to this incident are fully and accurately determined,” the statement read.