An Odessa police officer was forced to pepper spray unruly customers at the west side Walmart on Thanksgiving night just as Black Friday sales went live, according to Walmart spokeswoman Dianna Gee.
Odessa Police Cpl. Steve LeSueur said the night was calm except for an incident at 8 p.m. inside the Walmart, located at 2450 Loop 338, when an officer used pepper-spray to control the crowd who were rushing a pallet of tablets and headphones.
According to Walmart, an 8-year-old boy was knocked down and the officer responded by pepper-spraying the crowd to gain control.
“Luckily the boy is fine and no injuries were reported,” Gee said.
Jose Mancha was in the checkout line with his wife when it started getting crazy.
He said a Walmart employee was yelling out to the crowd — who were not in a line of any sort — that once they cut the plastic off the pallet each person could only take one tablet.
“Then I heard them get real rowdy, so my wife told me ‘go over there and record it,’” Mancha said on Friday by phone.
The plastic was cut and it quickly got out of hand.
“It was chaotic. Ladies were getting trampled, kids were trying to get in there,” Mancha said.
An officer sprayed over the pallet into the crowd, Mancha said, and created a coughing frenzy that reached the check-out line and even the cashiers. His video shows customers coughing and running away from the pallet with their shirts to their faces.
“I was shocked by it,” Mancha said, but he blames Walmart for the disorganization and he said if people were put into lines it could have been easily avoided.
Walmart also released this statement on the incident: “This is one of a few isolated incidents across the country and we don’t feel it’s an overall fair representation of what took place at the majority of our 4000 plus stores.”
“From coast to coast, we had the safest start to Black Friday ever. With 22 million of customers shopping our stores, we expect some incidents, but thankfully they were isolated and resolved quickly. Overall the number of incidents is significantly down from last year. Our safety plans worked, and we’ve heard great feedback from our customers and associates,” Gee said.
Employees at the west side Walmart referred all questions to the corporate branch in Arkansas.
>> Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.