June 18, 2001
A little girl named Ladawna
This isn't a complicated story but it is horrible, tragic and senseless. A woman apparently attempts stealing groceries from a local market, flees empty-handed, is chased by grocery clerks, the woman crashes her car into a tree, she is severely injured and her child is killed.
Let me recap that story. A woman bungles the theft of food, a store employee approaches her and talks with her, and I assume was close enough to see a license plate number, the woman flees, leaving several hundred dollars of groceries in the parking lot.
She drives off, followed by several grocery clerks in their own car and over two miles later she hits the tree and her little girl is dead.
Woman, child and food. That is not the same as ski mask, gun and grabbing the cash register. And it doesn't seem like a crime wave or a looting. It seems more like desperation.
I have to ask, are the town's grocery store clerks trained in police tactics? Then again, as we have recently seen in Seattle, even the police sometimes have troubles stopping cars. Why were they still chasing after her when she was so far from the store? Just how far should store employees go to stop a shoplifter, especially when the goods are left behind?
The grocery store management can state all it wants that it wasn't a high speed pursuit, but I have a feeling that to a panicked woman any type of being followed or chased is a hot pursuit. Stealing is of course wrong. But having a little girl die because of the event is too horrible to be ignored. Many stores have a policy taught during employee orientation that is very specific about this: Do not chase after shoplifters. Get descriptions and license plate numbers and then call the police.
This may be too obvious for overly zealous grocery clerks, but that is why we have a police department! Look at it as a math problem: mother plus daughter and grocery store. Now subtract one little girl.
What a horrible story.
Bill Stankus, Woodinville