2 fired from Broomfield Best Buy for tackling shoplifter

August 20th, 2009 by

denverpost
Two employees at the Best Buy store at FlatIron Crossing in Broomfield have been fired for the way they tried to stop a knife-wielding shoplifter who stole two cellphones at the store on Aug. 1.

“I reacted on instinct,” said 20-year-old Jared Bergstreser, who was sitting at the “asset protection desk” near the front door.

“I tackled him (outside the store), and we ended up on the cement,” said Bergstreser, who is studying to be a paramedic at Front Range Community College.

Bergstreser and employee Colin Trapp, 23, who came to his aid, were both fired Sunday.

Bergstreser said his firing was decided by corporate officials, not the local store, because he didn’t follow company policy in his pursuit of the shoplifter.

“They don’t want us to get hurt,” said Bergstreser. “I definitely went against company policy. I don’t disagree with it (the firing). I put people in danger, and I put myself in danger.”

A Best Buy spokeswoman couldn’t comment on the specific case but said it was company policy is not to pursue shoplifters out of the store.

Bergstreser, who said he has witnessed more than 20 shoplifting incidents during his nearly three years at the store, said that as he was on the ground with the shoplifter, the situation rapidly deteriorated.

A male accomplice of the shoplifter, who apparently had been waiting outside in a car, began approaching, and the suspected shoplifter produced a knife and started “throwing it around.”

Bergstreser said he jumped back, as did Trapp, who had rushed to Bergstreser’s assistance.

The knife-brandishing shoplifter cut the hand of a female Best Buy manager who attempted to recover the cellphones.

Her wound, said Bergstreser, bled profusely. An ambulance was called to treat her and Bergstreser, who had a bad case of road rash on one arm.

The 5-foot-6, 170-pound Bergstreser, who played football at Standley Lake High School in Westminster, said the shoplifter was about 5-foot-11 and weighed about 180 pounds.

As they struggled, he said the shoplifter “was yelling to his two friends — a woman in the car and the guy walking toward us.”

They suspects got away and are still at large.

Sgt. Scott Swenson, spokesman for the Broomfield Police Department, said no arrests have been made of the shoplifter or his accomplices.

“It is an open, active investigation,” he said.

Bergstreser acknowledged that Best Buy has a policy that store employees are not to come into bodily contact with customers or shoplifters, a policy designed for the personal safety of the employees.

He said Trapp, who rushed to his aid, should not have been fired.

“He (Trapp) wasn’t the one who reacted,” said Bergstreser. “He came out to help.”

Trapp, who had worked at the store for about six months in asset protection, said Best Buy officials never gave him a clear reason why he was let go. “I asked several times,” he said.

However, it was clear, said Trapp, that local Best Buy officials were very reluctant to fire him and Bergstreser.

It was a decision from corporate headquarters in Minnesota, said Trapp, a business marketing major who transferred from the University of Cincinnati to the University of Colorado, where he will start classes next spring.

Bergstreser said that both the manager and general manager at the Best Buy at FlatIron Crossing did not want to fire either employee and that fellow employees at Best Buy have rallied around them.

“They definitely don’t agree with it,” said Bergstreser. “It is all corporate.”

Kelly Groehler, Best Buy spokesperson, said the company has a long-standing policy not to address issues related to the termination of former employees.

However, she said Best Buy has specific policies when it comes to shoplifters.

“Employees who work in our stores are aware, and trained, on the standard operating procedures for dealing with shoplifting or theft, which includes ceasing pursuit of a shoplifter once they exit the store,” she said.

“These procedures are in place first and foremost for the safety of our employees. In circumstances like these, we must cooperate with local authorities,” said Groehler.


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