Jim Tinney told KTRK-TV that while on the job, he saw three men bringing expensive tool sets up to the checkout area. He thought they were acting nervous.
“One of them hollered ‘let’s go,’ and they all grabbed their kits and started heading out,” Tinney recalled.
Reacting instinctively, Tinney said he threw the paint roller extension he was holding at them, hitting one of the shoplifters in the foot. No one was injured and the men successfully fled the scene.
“In the Army, they train you to do things like that,” Tinney said. “I just automatically went like this and threw the stick at their feet.”
But regardless of Tinney’s intentions, two weeks later the store fired him for the incident, citing company policy that prohibits confronting shoplifters. He told the news station he was aware of the company policy, but his reaction was reflexive, and he felt the punishment was too harsh.
“I think they could have written me up, reprimanded me. But terminate me? That’s pretty strong,” Tinney said, adding that it’s been hard for him to find a new job.
“I’m 70 years old. I need to work. I needed that job. I enjoyed working with customers, helping figuring out what they wanted to do. It’s fun,” Tinney said.
Home Depot Director of Corporate Communications Stephen Holmes told KTRK in a written statement that the policy is in place to keep their employees safe, something they take very seriously.
“What I can tell you now is that we have a strict policy that only our trained security personnel can pursue and engage shoplifters. We’ve had deaths and serious injury over the years, and no amount of merchandise is more important than the safety of our associates and customers,” Holmes wrote.
“Last week, we had an associate bitten. We’ve had stabbings, another associate with serious brain damage, and it goes on from there. In fact, in just the past 24 hours we’ve had two shoplifters pull guns at two different stores at both ends of the country. So you can see, it’s a very serious safety risk to everyone, even when it doesn’t appear to be.”