A mother has sued Target, claiming her son’s July suicide was a result of his being forced to perform a handcuffed “walk of shame” through the Pasadena store where he worked as part of an alleged policy at the retail chain.
Graham Gentles was a cashier at the Pasadena Target until July 15, when he was met by police and store security when arriving for work, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Jan. 22 by his mother, Virginia Gentles.
Officers grabbed 22-year-old Graham Gentles, who had Asperger’s syndrome, emptied his pockets, handcuffed him and then led him in front of registers and past guest services to an office within the store, the lawsuit states.
“Mr. Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of coworkers and store customers,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Gentles has no idea why he was being arrested.”
Virginia Gentles said her son was a “very caring” person who was wrecked by the experience. He was a hard worker who had never stolen from the store, she said.
“His life had been destroyed, right at that moment,” Virginia Gentles said. “He lost his family and friends. Those were all his friends for two years … people he socialized every day with. … He just couldn’t process what had happened.”
She believes the incident was the result of a complaint from a fellow coworker related to an earlier after-hours argument at a bar, the lawsuit states.
Police had no warrant for his arrest and Graham Gentles was never charged, according to the complaint. Virginia Gentles was never told why her son was detained, according to her attorney, Patrick McNicholas.
The “imprisonment” Gentles endured was part of Target “walk of shame” policy intended to purposefully humiliate employees suspected of stealing, McNicholas said.
Graham Gentles died after jumping from the nine-story Courtyard Marriott hotel in Monrovia three days after the “walk of shame.”
Gentles’ syndrome, a type of autism, was described in the lawsuit as a developmental disorder that “impairs an individual’s social and communication skills.”
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, negligence, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In addition to Target Corp., it names two store employees who were allegedly involved in Gentles’ “walk of shame.”
A statement provided by a Target spokesman stated that the lawsuit’s allegations about “a Target policy or practice are simply not true. … There is no such policy.”
“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual,” the statement read.
A Facebook page set up in Graham Gentles’ memory has elicited comments from other across the country alleging the “walk of shame” occurred in other Target locations.