A mother in Pasadena, California, is in mourning and has sued sued Target after her 22-year-old son committed suicide, which she alleges was the result of a humiliating disciplinary measure which involved police intervention.
Graham Gentles was working as a cashier at Target when he was subjected to the “walk of shame,” a disciplinary practice involving employees being paraded around the store in handcuffs before being placed in a police car and taken into custody, KNBC reports.
According to Virginia Gentles’ lawsuit, her 22-year-old son arrived to work and was immediately met by police and store security. He was then handcuffed and led throughout the store to an office.
“Mr. Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers,” the suit reads. “Mr. Gentles had no idea why he was being arrested.”
Graham was taken to a police station, where he was questioned and subsequently released. He was never charged with a crime.
“The only thing he said to me at that moment was, ‘Mom this is the worst day of my life,'” Virginia said.
It is unclear why Graham was arrested.
Graham was fired, and three days later jumped to his death from the roof of a Courtyard Marriott hotel.
His mother’s attorney, Patrick McNicholas, said her son had Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism that causes those afflicted to hyperfocus and obsess over certain incidents.
“The nature of Aspergers he tended to hyper focus and so he was very hyper focused on this,” McNicholas said. “He was hyper focused on his loss and it was a perfect storm which resulted in his death.”
The lawsuit states the “walk of shame” is a storewide policy intended to humiliate Target employees as a form of discipline.
“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target,” according to the suit. “The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”
In a statement, Target denied the existence of such a policy and offered its condolences to Virginia and her family.
“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual,” spokesman Evan Lapiska said. “As this is pending litigation, we don’t have further comment at this time.”
Virginia said she chose to file a lawsuit against the company because she did not want anyone else to endure the pain caused by her son’s suicide.
“I don’t want any other mother to have to go through what I’ve gone through,” she said. “This is my only child.”