Video shows man injured in confrontation at Martin’s after shoplifting accusation
MISHAWAKA A 36-year-old man sustained head injuries on Monday and says he spent the night in an emergency room after he was accused of shopflifting and then restrained by security at the Martin’s Super Market at 314 N. Ironwood Drive. A video of part of the incident was recorded by a customer at the store and has been circulating on social media. It shows the man, Charles Elkins, bleeding from his head and shouting his mother’s phone number as he’s pinned to the ground by two men. A private security contractor at the store told Mishawaka police that Elkins was spotted trying to shoplift two bottles of liquor and then ran when confronted.
Elkins said in an interview that he spent Monday night in Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.
“I was in there, and the people (at Martin’s) thought I stole a bottle of liquor,” he said. “I went to walk out and they jumped me; four or five jumped me, even though I didn’t do nothing.”
Elkins said he remembers hitting his head on the concrete outside the store. The next thing he recalls is being in an ambulance. “I was knocked unconscious,” he said. A 43-second video of the incident was taken by Hannah Bradley, a Martin’s customer who was going into the store at about 10 p.m. Monday and saw the group of men holding Elkins down. She went inside to complain to store officials about the treatment of Elkins. After that, she made a purchase, exited the store and saw Elkins was still being held on the ground. She then began recording the incident with her cell phone.
“When I got out, he was still on the ground and bloody, and they would not let him get up,” she said. “That’s when I started recording, and they tried to block me.”
The video shows Elkins being held face down on the ground with blood under his head. Throughout the recording, Elkins repeatedly shouts out his mother’s phone number and asks witnesses to “please call my momma.”
A female store employee who identifies herself as a manager attempts to block the person from recording the incident and is heard threatening to ban her from the store. The same female manager refers to Elkins a “criminal.”
Mishawaka police were called to the store shortly before 10 p.m., according to Asst. Police Chief Jason Stefaniak, on report of a shoplifting. Officers reported seeing a man unresponsive and handcuffed outside the store. Stefaniak said police called for an ambulance to take him to Memorial Hospital. Officers went to the hospital until receiving word that Elkins was stable. Elkins mother said he wasn’t released from hospital until 5:30 a.m. Tuesday where Elkins’ sister and her husband went to check on him. According to the Mishawaka police report, a private contractor working security at Martin’s reportedly saw a man put two bottles of liquor into his pants and watched him walk past the last point of sale in the store.
When approached, Elkins began yelling and ran from the store, where security and at least two others struggled with him before apprehending and handcuffing him, the report says. The private contractor, VSS Security Services, declined to comment. The video does not show how Elkins ended up on the ground, but does show him being restrained. Private security, though, does not have the right to use force unless force is used against them, said Stan Wruble, a South Bend defense lawyer.
Private security officers are not granted any special authority under the law like police officers.
“They are essentially treated as private citizens,” Wruble said. Indiana law does allow stores to detain shoplifters, but the detention must be reasonable. Stores can be liable for negligence if a security officer uses unreasonable force detaining someone, he said.
“It’s definitively use of force,” Wruble said of what can be seen in the video, “but it’s whether it’s a reasonable use of force.”
If he was advising a company on its security, Wruble said, he would advise them not to get physical. No theft charges had been filed and Elkins has not been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.
A Martin’s Super Market spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday but provided a written statement saying, “The incident depicted in this video is under review by the Mishawaka Police Department.”
Tribune reporter Lincoln Wright contributed to this story.