Understanding the case: Kroger parking lot attacks - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Understanding the case: Kroger parking lot attacks explainer

Understanding the case: The facts behind the Kroger parking lot attack

Controversy over the Kroger attacks continues to make its rounds on social media after a horrific mob in a Memphis Kroger parking lot was caught on cell phone video. Four people were injured, some from being repetitively beaten or kicked.

Below the WMC Action News 5 digital team has broken down our coverage in sections to easily understand the many details in this case. You will be prompted to expand a section, if interested in further reading on a topic.

Understanding the case: Kroger parking lot attacks

What happened before the attack

Memphis Police Department Director Toney Armstrong said a fight between two groups of teenagers at Cici's Pizza spilled out into the parking lot and turned into a flash mob of teenagers in the Kroger parking lot.

Armstrong said the fight began between two groups of female African-American teenagers.

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One Poplar Plaza employee, who wants to remain unidentified, says the large group was kicked out of CiCi's Pizza just before the incident. He 100 young people caused so much of a ruckus inside CiCi's that the manager closed more than an hour early.

A mom leaving CiCi's Pizza says the mob attacked and vandalized her car.



The details behind the Kroger parking lot attack

Three people were injured Saturday night, Sept. 6, by a large group of teenagers who came from a nearby CiCi's Pizza restaurant. Two Kroger employees, ages 17 and 18, were jumped while trying to stop the initial attack on a 25-year-old customer.

Both were "struck several times in the head and face while being knocked to the ground," according to reports. The victims say large pumpkins were thrown at their heads. They both were eventually knocked unconscious.

Cell phone video circulating Facebook captured teenagers beating one of the Kroger employees next to the store's entrance doors.

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"We have evidence, information, some of them are [in a gang]. Can we say this was a gang sanction incident? We don't have any information to substantiate that," Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said during a news conference. "From what we have, is a flash mob that got out of control."

Armstrong called the attack an isolated incident. In the cell phone video captured, You can see him on the video wearing shorts and blue shirt, pushing several teens out of the way and running into the store.

"It was nonsense violence. I can say that for sure. It seemed very unprovoked. They weren't about anything, that it was fun for them. They were out having a good time. They were all smiling they were laughing," added the customer who spoke to WMC Action News 5.

In the video, laughing as they knocked out a 17-year-old employee; they kicked him in the head and threw pumpkins on top of him.

The customer says several employees were filming the incident but one man, seen at the end of the video knocked out, stepped in to defend him and the teen.

The victims were treated on the scene for their injuries. All three refused to be taken to the hospital. The 17-year-old victim's father said his son was OK.



Police make arrests and file charges

Officers arrested and charged 10 teenagers and one adult a day after the attack.

Police arrested and charged Raheem Richardson,19, with aggravated assault and aggravated riot. Additionally, a 16-year-old was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated riot, and acting in concert to wit aggravated assault.

Eight teenagers, from 14 to 17 years old, are charged with aggravated riot. A 15-year-old boy arrested Sunday and charged with similar crimes. Police detained several other teens for questioning Monday afternoon.

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One 15-year-old charged was charged Sunday. It was discovered that he has not been enrolled in school this year, and his mother could also face charges.

Armstrong credits parents in two of the arrests for "stepping up" and holding their kids responsible in the incident.

"Two parents did the right thing. Two parents contacted us and notified us, they thought their kids had took part in this," he said.

Armstrong also released the following statement after the attack: "We are fully aware of the last night's incidents. It is extremely troubling to see how many young people were involved, especially on the heels of last week's youth forum. A lot of our citizens are working to provide safe and productive alternatives for our youth. For those that choose not to take advantage of these opportunities, we will work tirelessly to identify, locate and hold you accountable. Last night's events clearly demonstrates a lack of parental controls and if warranted these parents will also be held accountable."



The victims of the attack

No one suffered serious injuries from Sunday's attack, but one of the customers who spoke to WMC Action News 5 recalled horrific memories from the incident.

The customer, who was attacked, said when he saw a large crowd in the parking lot, he thought it might have been part of a flash mob.

"As I was starting to get my camera open, a guy popped around a car and said 'Hey bro' and just started swinging at me. And I tried to put my hands up, another guy started rushing at me. I took off running backwards through the parking lot," he noted.

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"If you watch the video they say 'oh they're jacking, they're getting that white guy'," said the victim. "I'm that white guy ... "I had run clear in through the door. I was at the fruit aisle, and I turned back to see if they were still following me. So immediately, I pulled out my phone and called 911."

"It was nonsense violence. I can say that for sure. It seemed very unprovoked. They weren't about anything, that it was fun for them. They were out having a good time. They were all smiling they were laughing," added the customer.

The 17-year-old victim who was kicked and beaten in entrance of Kroger spoke with WMC Action News 5. He didn't want to go on camera but says he's grateful to be alive, adding that he was hit twice before he blacked out. His family took him to the hospital where they scanned his head to check for trauma.

Mark Sauser is the father of the 17-year-old. Sauser told WMC Action News 5's general manager he is angry about what happened to his son, but he is determined not to become bitter.

He is also upset the focus has been on race and not on what he calls the real problem: the destruction of the American family as divorce rates climbed and out of wedlock births increase.

Sauser says this was not a hate crime, and what happened to his son was equal opportunity hate.

Sauser says he believes healing the American family needs to be a national discussion, too many children are growing up without parental guidance. He would like to see a city wide day of prayer and feels it will take a supernatural power to heal what's wrong with our families.



Why the attack is not a hate crime

Dozens of people took to social media to share their opinions about the Kroger parking lot attack, many calling it a hate crime.

While two of the three victims of this brutal attack were white, Armstrong pointed out that one was black. The Shelby County District Attorney answered the hate crime question, after hundreds of complaints.

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"The current civil rights intimidation statute in Tennessee does not cover the facts as we know them right now," DA Amy Weirich said. "You have to show that someone's constitutional rights were denied because of the actions of someone else."

"It will fall on the shoulders of our juvenile prosecution team to make sure justice is done for the victims on that Kroger parking lot and for the entire community," she said.

She says there are both state and federal statutes regarding civil rights violations based on race or "hate crimes." And it may be too early in this case to rule anything out.

"We will make sure every law in the state of Tennessee that fits these facts is applied," she said.

The DA says the fact that the assaults happened in a mob setting could enhance the charges.



The ongoing investigation

As nearly a dozen people have been arrested in this case, more are expected. If you have any information, or can identify someone in the slideshow below, call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

City leaders and community members respond

City leaders are asking parents to use the incident as an opportunity to talk to their children about responsibility.

"It's [the attack] just reprehensible ... It damages our community, not to mention the harm that was done to the victim. It cast our city in a horribly bad light. We want to make it clear we're not going to tolerate it," Mayor A C Wharton

Wharton touched on the effectiveness of a stricter curfew for teens, during a news conference.

Patrols were increased in the area near Poplar Avenue and Highland Street. Additionally, MPD is working with businesses in the plaza to enhance security. Many businesses already have taken that initiative. CiCi's put up a new sign on their door that reads: Minors must be accompanied by an adult guardian.

"Our message to the thugs is it's our neighborhood, we outnumber you and we're not going to take this," said Jackson. "We're not putting up with this."

A couple days after the attack, more than 100 people held up signs near the Kroger to promote peace and encourage Mid-Southerners to love one another. Participants called this event a love mob.

The message of the love mob was to get out and show love for somebody, because it may help make this a better community.

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