Okay - I'll bite (figuratively speaking, of course) . . .It appears that "tuff" might not begin to cover it . . .
Port Saint Lucie
(Florida)-- January 8th 2005. While responding to an EMS call at the Wal-Mart Superstore on Highway US 1 in Port St. Lucie, Florida, photo journalist Lee Oliver was allegedly the victim of simple battery by the stores co-manager known (at this time) only as Phillip. What began as investigating a story of a collapsed customer (later, facts proved that it was merely an employee who felt ill.) Mr. Oliver entered the store to request permission for an on-camera interview but was denied and asked to leave the store. Mr. Oliver left immediately without incident. After leaving the store Mr. Oliver began shooting what is known as background footage of the ambulance in the parking lot. Whilst filming the ambulance he was approached by the co-manager known as Phillip. Phillip asked Mr. Oliver to turn off the camera then grabbed the lens of the video camera. Mr. Oliver asked why Phillip was was so adamant regarding the cessation of filming, but received no answer. The co-manager briefly released the camera, however when Mr. Oliver identified the co-manager by name and title, Phillip responded by quickly grabbing the top of the cameras lens-hood and forcefully pushed it forward into Mr. Olivers' eye. This action which was clearly no accident caused bruising to Mr. Olivers' right eye and orbital bone. The attack also caused damage to the video camera.
When District manager Gary Kirkland called Mr. Oliver regarding the incident he, in what appeared to be an aggressive tone, stated "My manager said it didn't happen, so it didn't happen!" "I have two witness statements to back up my manager" He denied an offer to view the video stating "if your camera's so broke how am I gonna see a thing." Mr. Kirkland further stated (regarding the alleged attack) "Hey! you stick a camera in someones' face what do you think is gonna happen?)
Wal-Mart Media relations was contacted regarding the incident, and subsequent apathy of District Manager Gary Kirkland. Marchelle Antons initial reaction to the video was disgust! stating "this is terrible! Let me get a supervisor and get right back to you" That was three days ago. It would appear that not all Wal-Mart management share Ms. Antons' "disgust"!
In the interest of full disclosure Mr. Oliver has filed a claim with Wal-Marts' insurance company (CMI) for the damage to the camera, which now periodically has pixilated artifacts on recorded video, and drops frames. After taking an initial report CMI has only now (1/17/05, nine days later) requested a copy of the video for review. Neither Wal-Mart nor its' media relations department have officially responded to numerous requests for comment.
Police were called to the scene and were initially going to charge the manager with simple battery, but at the request of Mr. Oliver no charges were filed at the time. Although at this point Mr. Oliver has changed his mind and would like charges of simple battery brought against the alleged assailant.