LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jose Marcos Picazo called his father and told him he was going shopping for clothes at Walmart and planned to see him the next day for lunch.
Several hours later, Picazo, accused of shoplifting, was dead after authorities said he fought with store security workers who detained him in a parking lot.
Questions remained for Picazo’s family four days after his death, including whether the actions taken by store security were appropriate.
“He didn’t have any reason to steal. He had the money,” Picazo’s mother, Rosa Picazo, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Sheriff’s investigators said Picazo, 41, of Azusa was seen leaving the store in Covina mid-day Friday without paying for clothing, body wash and other items in a shopping cart.
As store employees with the loss prevention unit detained Picazo for petty theft, he began to fight with them, said Lt. Holly Francisco of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which is handling the investigation.
When Covina police arrived, Picazo was being restrained by loss prevention officers and appeared to be in medical distress, authorities said. Police called paramedics and Picazo died later at a hospital.
An autopsy to determine his cause of death is pending, but Picazo’s family said they haven’t yet seen his body. The family was told by the hospital that Picazo had bumps and scrapes on his face as well as some bruising, Picazo’s brother, Frank Picazo said.
Three Walmart employees were suspended with pay pending the outcome of the sheriff’s investigation, said Wal-Mart Stores spokeswoman Dianna Gee. Their names were not released.
Members of the store’s loss prevention team are unarmed, and the company has an outside security company to provide assistance at some stores, including Covina, Gee said.
Gee said Walmart will make sure its policies and procedures were followed, she said.
“Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk,” Gee said. “That being said, this is an active investigation and we are working with law enforcement and providing them information.”
Francisco said there were witnesses, and investigators plan to look at any surveillance video taken from inside or outside the store.
Rosa Picazo said her son wasn’t violent or aggressive. He has struggled with alcohol and drugs but was clean and sober and was renting a room in a nearby city.
“He was living there and was trying to get a better life,” she said. “He was a very helpful person and always asked what he could do for others.”
Picazo, who was unmarried and didn’t have children, called his father Friday and said he planned to go to Walmart to buy clothes. He had just received his government assistance check, so there was no reason for him to steal anything, Rosa Picazo said.
“If he ever needed money in the past my husband would always help him,” she said.
She added that her husband had seen Picazo a day before his death and he seemed fine. However, Picazo was admitted to a hospital that same day for an unspecified medical condition. He was released that day with a clean bill of health, she said.
Rosa Picazo believes her son didn’t have to die, especially over suspected shoplifting.
“My concern is that he didn’t have the help he needed to save his life,” she said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)