The story began on January 13th when employees at the store saw Trent Allen Longton unwrap a Netbook computer in the electronics section and stuff it under his clothes. Lori Poulsen, an asset protection coordinator, intercepted Longton and escorted him to the loss prevention room to confront him. Shortly thereafter, Shawn Ray and Justin Richins, both asset protection associates, joined Poulsen, along with an assistant manager, Gabriel Stewart, to witness the proceedings. Shortly after pulling out the small laptop, Longton also pulled out a handgun (later found to be loaded with ten rounds and a bullet in the chamber) and charged toward the closed office door. Ray, Richins and Stewart were in the way. Longton grabbed Stewart as his way to get out. Instantly, Shawn Ray and Justin Richins kicked into gear, spinning Longton around. Lori Poulsen ripped the gun away and secured it. They all held onto the man until police arrived minutes later.
The four Layton Walmart employees felt it was mission accomplished. Police officers told them they had done everything right. But a week later, all four were fired from their jobs. Walmart said their actions had violated company policy and put their fellow workers and shoppers at risk. The four workers were full-time employees. Stewart had been with the company for more than 12 years. Poulsen, who was employed for more than seven years, had made Walmart a career. Ray said his dismissal kept him from purchasing a home.
Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman issued the following statement:
"We appreciate the intentions demonstrated by our associates in this situation, but the actions taken put their safety - and potentially the safety of our customers and other associates - in jeopardy. In their roles within the store, they were aware of our expectations regarding safety and, unfortunately, their actions have led to them no longer working for the company".
As for Trent Allen Longton, the police report indicates he was arrested and charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, brandishing a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, unlawful possession of another's ID, and retail theft. In court on February 7th, Longton pleaded guilty to two charges: robbery, a second-degree felony; and the purchase, transfer, possession or use of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a class A misdemeanor. In exchange for his plea, the three other charges were dismissed. Longton was already a convicted felon who had multiple warrants out for his arrest, and was a restricted person, meaning he wasn't supposed to be carrying a handgun.
This is not the first time a Walmart store has fired an employee for trying to prevent theft; the KSL story documents another incident. But to fire four employees who put themselves in harm's way to do their job is incomprehensible.
The Layton Walmart store needs to feel economic pain for this decision. The only appropriate response is a local boycott of the Layton store until such time as they are re-hired, either at that store or another nearby store. Here's a list of Walmart stores in northern Utah; the nearest ones to Layton, all within 10 miles, are as follows:
-- 2228 W 1700 S, Syracuse
-- 1632 N 2000 W, Clinton
-- 4848 S 900 W, Riverdale