Security guard arrested after shooting at Kroger

(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Willie Tate was hospitalized after being shot by the security guard (SOURCE: Family)
Willie Tate was hospitalized after being shot by the security guard (SOURCE: Family)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A security guard found himself in handcuffs after a theft at Kroger.

Memphis Police Department arrested Gregory Towner, 24, for aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Investigators said Towner, who works as a security guard at Kroger off Frayser Boulevard, opened fire on a theft suspect.

Towner admitted to firing his weapon, but he said he fired a warning shot in the direction of the suspects. He did not admit to actually shooting anyone.

Willie Tate, 41, ended up in the hospital with a gunshot wound in his right arm. Tate was shot in his truck in the parking lot of Kroger.

Tate's sister wants to know why the security guard opened fire.

"The bullet is stuck in his arm, and they say both of his bones are broken," Tate's sister Charlotte Whitley said. "I was upset at the guy that pulled the trigger up there where all those people are. He could have shot anyone."

Tate said he drove his friend "Nicky-Pooh" to Kroger. Nicky-Pooh went into the store while Tate and his girlfriend waited in a truck in the parking lot. Police confirmed that Tate appeared to simply be giving the man a ride to the store.

"I want to know what's the procedure when someone is so called stealing out the store. Are they supposed to shoot? Are they supposed to call the police?" Whitley asked.

Tate said Nicky-Pooh returned after shopping inside, so Tate started to drive off. The next thing he knew, he heard a gunshot and a window in his truck shattered.

Investigators later confirmed more than $100 worth of meat had been stolen from Kroger. However, it was returned so no charges were filed against the thief.

This is the second big scare Tate has been forced to recover from in his life.

"He was in a train accident about 6-7 years ago. He lost one arm and one leg, so now his other arm is injured," Whitley said.

WMC Action News 5 investigators tried to get answers to some of the family's questions. We went to Kroger's contracted security company, Central Defense, and the gates were locked. When we called, someone answered the phone but then quickly hung up.

Memphis Police Department said more charges could be on the way.

Kroger said it is working with MPD during this investigation and they have active measures in place to address safety for shoppers. Kroger released a statement on the incident and their contracted security company.

"Kroger Delta Division is cooperating with the Memphis Police Department while they investigate the incident that occurred yesterday in the parking lot of the Frayser Village Shopping Center.

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