Walmart and an off-duty Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy face a wrongful death lawsuit for a shooting that resulted in the death of a man who was suspected of shoplifting.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Donald Sneed III, in Jackson County Circuit Court alleges negligence that resulted in Sneed’s death on May 28, 2017. Sneed died following a struggle with Deputy Lauren Michael outside the front doors of a Walmart at 10300 E. U.S. 350 in Raytown.
Michael was working off-duty security at the store and was trying to help store employees who had stopped Sneed for allegedly shoplifting when Sneed disarmed the deputy of her stun gun and shocked her in the neck with it.
The deputy shot Sneed to protect herself and others in the store, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office said following the incident.
Jackson County authorities have not said how many shots Michael fired. An incident report and surveillance video of the altercation have not been released.
Sneed had active felony warrants for robbery and tampering with a motor vehicle at the time of the shooting.
Since then the case has been referred to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
The wrongful death lawsuit also names U.S. Security, the St. Louis-based security firm that hired Michael as a third defendant.
It alleges that Sneed was unarmed when he was tackled by Walmart employees and posed no threat to Michael or the public.
“The killing was therefore unjustified, willful and reckless,” according to the petition. “That as a direct proximate result of the negligent willful and unjustified reckless use of excessive force by Defendant Michael, Donald Sneed lost his life needlessly.”
Walmart failed to properly train its security officers or employees “in the appropriate and safe methods of detaining and/or restraining individual,” the lawsuit alleges.
The company said in a statement that Michael’s actions were appropriate due to the nature of the incident.
“Our understanding is the uniformed Sheriff’s Deputy attempted to arrest someone who was wanted on several warrants and he resisted, which led to the events that followed,” the company said. “We have reviewed the Petition and responded appropriately. We plan to defend the company.”
Michael remains employed by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Last year, she was awarded a medal of valor by then-Sheriff Mike Sharp for her actions in the Walmart incident. In announcing the award, the sheriff’s office said:
“We are all fortunate that Deputy Michael was not injured seriously in the event and that she was able to go home safely to her family and her friends,” Sharp said in a release. “It’s also obvious that the training she received as a Sheriff’s deputy helped produce the outcome that it did for her.”
Patrick Foppe, an attorney representing Michael, could not be reached for comment.
However, in court filings, Foppe said Michael recognized Sneed as being wanted for felony arrest warrants. She alerted store employees, who allegedly watched Sneed shoplift some merchandise. A struggle ensued when two store employees tried to stop Sneed as he left the store.
Sneed then became violent and resisted arrest. He struck Michael, pulled her hair and used a stun gun on her, according to the court filing.
The jury trial for the lawsuit is scheduled for June 2020, according to court records.