Mother sues Target over son’s death
by Carol Thompson
A California Target is facing a lawsuit from the mother of a former employee who she says took his own life after being forced to participate in a humiliating “walk of shame.”
The lawsuit claims 22-year-old Graham A. Gentles, a former cashier at the retail chain’s Pasadena store, was humiliated when he was subjected to what the family’s attorney called a “walk of shame,” a ritual during which the employee is paraded around the store in handcuffs.
Virginia Gentles filed the suit last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claiming her son jumped to his death from the roof of the Courtyard Marriott in Monrovia July 18, three days after he was fired and allegedly forced to do the “walk of shame.”
According to the complaint, police and store security met Graham Gentles immediately as he arrived for work. At the direction of two members of the store management, he was handcuffed and led before other store employees to an office.
“Mr. Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers,” the complaint states. “Mr. Gentles had no idea why he was being arrested.” Graham Gentles was taken to the Pasadena Police Station but was never charged with a crime.
In a statement released last Friday, Target spokesperson Even Lapiska said, “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual. As this is pending litigation, we don’t have further comment at this time.”
Virginia Gentles has set up a Facebook page in memory of her son and says that others are contacting her in regard to the similar “walk of shame” stories. “I have received PM (private messages) from Philadelphia, Michigan, Texas, Chicago and many areas in California… I did not realize that the “Walk of Shame” happened in so many places.”
She added, “I appreciate that you all want to come forward in opposition to Targets comments that this practice does not happen in their stores.”
The lawsuit alleges that the suicide is directly related to his alleged mistreatment by Target.
Image: Flickr/Kevin Dooley