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Lithonia Walmart death under investigation | News

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Lithonia Walmart death under investigation

LITHONIA, Ga. -- DeKalb County police are investigating the death of a suspected shoplifter who was wrestled to the ground by three employees outside a Lithonia Walmart.

It happened at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday at the Walmart on Fairington Road.

The suspected shoplifter has been identified by family members as 38-year old Vidal Calloway. Friends and family gathered at his home in Ellenwood Monday but did not want to speak publicly aout Calloway.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections website Calloway was convicted of Shoplifting and Criminal Trespass in 2011.

MORE | Read police incident report 

According to the police report in Sundays incident, store manager Michael Burton asked to see the man's receipt for two LG Blu-ray DVD players, which he had put in his bag. The report said the man ran outside and Burton followed, grabbing the man by the hood of his sweatshirt and slammed him to the ground.

Burton says the man got back up and hit him in the face and chest.  A security officer contracted with Walmart and another employee joined in, allegedly telling police they put the man in a headlock and held him by his back and feet, in an effort to calm him down.

The police report says security officer Jaiviere Pruitt eventually put the suspect in a choke hold and told him to tap when he couldn't breathe.

Major Gardner, a security training consultant with Georgia Security Agency says his company trains more than 1,500 security guards a year and that choke holds are not part of their program.

"I don't think there's any licensed instructor in the state that would teach someone choke holds," said Gardner.

Unarmed security guards are required to have 24 hours of training to get their certification and eight hours of training each year after that to keep their certification.  Walmart won't say what its employees receive. But did say in a statement to 11Alive, "No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life. Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk."

"Retail chains don't want the liability, a product can be replaced, lives can't so more of a report and observe type protocol," said Gardner.

When DeKalb County Police officers arrived, they said the man was unresponsive, bleeding from his nose and mouth and barely had a pulse.

He was taken to DeKalb Medical Hillandale, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy will determine how he died. Police will use the findings as well as surveillance video to determine whether to press charges.

A Walmart spokesman said they're fully cooperating with the police. In a statement, Kayla Whaling with Walmart corporate communications said, "Our associates are trained that the safety of our customers and our associates is our first priority. No amount of merchandise is worth someone's life. Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk."

The two Walmart employees have been suspended with pay during the investigation. The third party security guard has been removed from his position.