Safeway Security Guard Fired After Interrogating Girl; Company Faced Criticism for Similar Incident


ABC News’ Suzan Clarke and Alyssa Newcomb report:

Safeway has fired the security guard who interrogated a 4-year-old girl for alleged shoplifting after he saw her eat from a bag of apricots and put the bag back on the shelf.

The girl’s father apparently hadn’t noticed what his daughter had done and was taken aback when he was stopped by security on his way out of the Everett, Wash., store.

The guard then interrogated Savannah Harp, 4.

The girl’s mother, Alissa Jones, said the guard proceeded to tell Harp’s father that the tot was banned from the store and that it would be pressing charges.

“He told them, ‘Your daughter stole and she’s banned from the store, and we’re pressing charges. And she needs to sign this form saying she understands she can’t come into any Safeways,’” Jones said, according to ABC News Seattle affiliate KOMO 4 News.

Savannah, who can’t read or write yet, was forced to scribble on the piece of paper.

“It’s pretty troubling. It’s not like she even knows what she was doing,” Jones said.

Safeway officials expressed outrage over the guard’s treatment of the little girl and issued a formal apology to her family. The division president offered to take the little girl around the bakery to show her that the store was not a scary place.

“In this case, neither our policy nor commonsense seems to have been followed,” Safeway said in a statement.

The California-based supermarket chain recently came under fire in a similar situation. A pregnant woman who was shopping with her husband and 2-year-old daughter in a Safeway in Beretainia, near Honolulu, was arrested and charged with theft after she ordered two sandwiches for a total of $5, ate one while she shopped and forgot to pay for them  at checkout on Oct. 31.

Nicole Leszczynski, 28, and her husband Marcin, 33, were new to the state and had gotten lost on their way to the grocery store. When they came upon the Safeway, she was famished, the Associated Press reported.

The pregnant woman, a former Air Force staff sergeant, said she was embarrassed about the lapse and offered to pay for the sandwiches, but managers wouldn’t allow it.

Instead, the couple were handcuffed, searched then released on $50 bail each, and their daughter was temporarily taken away by the state Child Welfare Services, the AP said.

The incident caused furor across the nation.  Safeway dropped the charges and apologized to the woman.  The company also said it would re-examine its worker training polices, the AP reported.