Walmart: Employees followed emergency protocol

Katherine Ranzenberger, and David Weissman
York Dispatch
  • Store will be closed until 6 a.m. Saturday, a Walmart employee confirmed.
  • Walmart issues statement that emergency procedures were followed by employees at the location.

Customers at the Shrewsbury Walmart, where a robbery suspect was shot by a state police trooper Thursday night, described a confusing environment, with employees and managers slow to alert shoppers.

The Walmart in Shrewsbury was closed Friday, April 8, 2016, after a state trooper shot an alleged armed robber inside the store the night before. Bill Kalina photo

One customer, Tawya Giblin, said she heard two loud pops come from somewhere in the store.

"I thought it was pallets that had fallen," Giblin said in a Facebook message. "We then saw Walmart employees and managers running to the back of the store (no directions were given nor was the fire alarm pulled to alert customers of an emergency). Many of us continued shopping until an employee came back inside and said we had to leave because they had a 'code brown.'"

Brian Nick, a corporate spokesman for Walmart, said the company reviewed surveillance video and spoke with management from the store before issuing the following statement via email:

“When faced with a very difficult situation, our associates enacted emergency procedures, including immediately notifying law enforcement and making other associates and customers aware of the situation. We’re very appreciative for the immediate response and assistance from law enforcement and grateful that no associates or customers were harmed.”

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Nick clarified that Walmart associates have code words for different emergencies, and code brown means threat of violence.

'Best intentions': The corporate office will continue to review the store's response to the situation, Nick said, but the company is satisfied with three facts: law enforcement was notified immediately, associates did what they could to alert customers and no associates or customers were harmed.

"We're confident everyone was using their best intentions," he said.

Giblin, of Shrewsbury Township, had gone to Walmart around 7:30 p.m. with her husband to do some quick grocery shopping.

She and her family usually shop at Walmart, and she said she knows a lot of the managers there.

"It was more frustrating than anything," Giblin said. "Not to know what was going on and not knowing that we were all to evacuate and to see employees (and mainly managers) run by people to get out ... That's disheartening."

A separate witness said the building was evacuated, and that shoppers were told to "stay low."

Social media posts also said nearby businesses and restaurants were locked down during the incident.

Michael McCargy, an assistant manager at the Little Caesars Pizza in the Shrewsbury Commons Shopping Center, wasn't working at the time but happened to be in the area.

"With as many police cars as there were, it felt like something crazy was going on," he said. "It was a lot to comprehend."

McCargy said he saw a stream of customers fleeing the Walmart for 10 to 15 minutes.

"It was little overwhelming," he added.

The incident: The state police barracks in Loganville received a 911 call from a Walmart employee at 7:34 p.m. Thursday reporting someone with a weapon had just robbed the pharmacy.

A trooper who was already in the area responded immediately and encountered the alleged robber just inside the doorway. The trooper told the man to drop the weapon, but the man instead raised his shotgun at the trooper, according to a state police news release.

"The trooper was able to simultaneously push the muzzle of the shotgun away as both fired one shot," the release states. "The subject's shot missed and struck a wall while the trooper's round struck the subject in the chest."

The store, which is usually open 24 hours per day, was closed until 6 a.m. Saturday.

Tom Poole of Parkton, MD, heads back to his vehicle after finding that the Walmart in Shrewsbury was closed Friday, April 8, 2016. A state trooper shot an alleged armed robber inside the store the night before. Poole said he regularly grocery shops at the location on Friday mornings. Bill Kalina photo