Customer Attacks on Workers Continue in Separate Incidents Across Country

15 Jun, 2022 Liz Carey


San Jose, CA ( – Customer attacks on workers continue as separate incidents were reported this past week. 

In San Jose, a Safeway employee is dead after an altercation with a customer suspected of shoplifting. 

San Jose police said they are investigating the incident. According to authorities, the employee was working inside a branch of the supermarket in the Willow Glen neighborhood on June 5. Police said there appeared to be an altercation between the employee and a customer who was stealing alcohol. 

Although company policy is not to confront thieves, the employee allegedly tried to intervene, and the suspect shot him. The incident happened around 3:30 a.m., police said. 

The store was closed on Monday, with management planning to meet with employees before deciding when to reopen. An employee who wished to remain anonymous told KTVU it was a sign of the times. 

"It's just the way we live our lives now. We always have to be aware. We always have to look over our shoulder," the worker said. "You have to take account of your circumstances and where you are, a way to get out of you need to. It's just something that's become the norm and it shouldn't be that way." 

In Tampa, police are searching for two women who attacked a Steak n’ Shake employee over their food order. 

On June 2, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public’s help in finding two women who brutally attacked the worker before threatening to shoot her. 

Police said the two women entered the Steak n’ Shake to complain about an error in their order. After talking with the employee, the women went into the employee area of the restaurant and began punching the employee in the face, officials said. 

Video released by the sheriff’s office showed the employee’s co-workers watching the incident in shock, while at least one of them tried to intervene.

“Attempting to defend herself, the victim fought back with the two female suspects as the fight moved out into the restaurant lobby,” cops said. 

Eventually, the worker fell to the floor, video shows, and was kicked in the head multiple times. One of the suspects then pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot the employee before fleeing the scene in a silver Honda CRV.

As a result of the attack, the victim suffered a concussion and cuts on her face, wrist and left knee. 

“There is no excuse for these two suspects to have enacted the amount of physical damage and fear to an employee who was just trying to do her job,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister during a press conference. “From fisticuffs to handcuffs, these suspects will be put away.” 

In Mt. Lebanon, Pa., a man was arrested Saturday night after attacking a postal worker with a baseball bat. 

Mt. Lebanon Police said they were called to a scene of an assault just before 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. When they arrived, they found a U.S. postal worker, “covered in blood from his head to his legs” and a broken baseball bat. 

Witnesses told police a shirtless man with long hair was seen punching the victim inside his postal van, then walking away down Dorchester Avenue, covered in blood. The victim, Charles "Charlie" Schmiedlin, who has delivered mail along the route for 25 years, identified the man as Matthew Harrison, 43, a nearby resident. 

Police said the postal worker was severely injured. 

“Both wrists/arms were visibly broken, with bones nearly exposed on the arms and wrist,” Mt. Lebanon Officer Jacob Elk wrote in a criminal complaint. “His right hand was swollen and bruised. He also had several large lacerations on both arms. I observed several large bruises on his back.” 

Schmiedlin told police he was delivering mail when he was hit in the head from behind with an unknown object. Police said they think it was the baseball bat found at the scene. Schmiedlin said he had never had any issues with the suspect in the past. He was taken to a nearby hospital and police confronted the suspect at his home. 

After a several hours-long standoff, Harrison was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault and attempted criminal homicide. Police said they had no motive yet for the attack. 

And in Cupertino, Calif., a man is facing hate crime charges after attacking two employees of a phone store and a police officer. 

Sixty-one year old Clifford Ray Stewart, was arrested June 1 after he allegedly attacked two workers who were trying to recover a sign the man had vandalized. 

Prosecutors say Stewart vandalized a sign outside of a T-Mobile store in Cupertino. When two employees working at the store went to recover the sign, prosecutor say he threatened both of them and attacked one of them – based solely on their race. 

"Two employees from the store, one a Hispanic female and the other an Asian man, went to retrieve the sign and the defendant then began yelling and screaming at both of them – telling them to go back to where they came from and calling them ethnic slurs," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen during a press conference. 

Stewart allegedly yelled “(expletive) Chinese, you don’t belong here,” and “stupid Mexicans.” He then allegedly attacked the Hispanic worker, kicking her in the stomach and punching her in the face, Rosen said. 

Stewart then fled to a nearby sports store, but was arrested shortly after by deputies. Prosecutors said Steward then abused the arresting deputy by calling him racial epithets and threatening to kill him, saying “All you piece of (expletive) people sneak into this country, have a baby, and get a free apartment," the District Attorney's Office said. 

Stewart faces felony hate crime and assault charges for this attack on the Hispanic employee, and misdemeanor charges for threatening the Hispanic deputy that arrested him. 

Rosen said his office has prosecuted more hate crime cases in 2021 than ever before.

"It is wrong," Rosen said. "I am here because this is a very diverse community that we live in and, for the most part, people get along and are respectful of one another. But we have had some outliers and these individuals have to be held accountable for what they did," Rosen said.  

Stewart was due in court on Monday after refusing to be transported to his court date on Friday.

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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