REDDING, Calif. — Vikki Patterson believed she was protecting a co-worker when she confronted an alleged shoplifter inside the CVS in west Redding earlier this month.
The company feels otherwise.
Patterson, a CVS employee for nearly 20 years, said she was fired for violating company policy.
"I found out Friday but not through anybody from work. I found out when I tried to sign on to try and see my benefits online and noticed some stuff was missing," the 47-year-old Patterson said Monday. Patterson called human resources and was told she no longer had a job.
A CVS spokesman said the safety of the store's customers and employees comes first during a shoplifting or robbery.
"We do not comment on specific security policies because we do not want to undermine them. However, the actions of Ms. Patterson endangered everyone who was present during the incident at our Redding store, including customers, her co-worker and herself," Mike DeAngelis, CVS's senior director of corporate communication, wrote in a prepared statement emailed to the Record Searchlight.
Patterson has received a ton of support on Facebook after posting her story Friday afternoon.
As of Monday afternoon, the post had been shared 237 times, had 649 likes and 427 comments.
What's more, a "CVS Pharmacy: Reinstate Vikki Patterson" campaign has been posted on Facebook along with other supportive posts.
The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 12. Patterson, a manager in training, said she was preparing to close when she noticed two women stuffing merchandise into a purse. She went over to ask the pair whether they needed help then called out, "security to the camera room," a tactic Patterson said is used to scare off shoplifters. The women indeed exited the store, leaving the merchandise. Patterson thought the crisis was averted.
"One stayed outside cussing and yelling the whole time," Patterson recalled.
But her partner came back inside and confronted Patterson about calling for security before going back to the aisle and filling her purse with what Patterson said was about $300 worth of merchandise.
"My cashier told me she's loading her purse up," Patterson said. "So I go towards her and said, 'you need to leave that stuff there' and she starts running."
The woman ran toward the door where the cashier was standing.
"I'm trying to get to the door before she slams into my employee," Patterson said, "and that's when the struggle happened. I mean, the video is bad because I was trying to protect myself — she was hitting me."
The scuffle spilled outside the store before the woman was able to drive off with her partner. Patterson and her co-worker called police, who finally caught up with the pair.
Amber Walworth, 31, was arrested, according to police and remains in the Shasta County jail on $150,000 bail. She was also wanted on a previous charge of robbery out of Anderson, Shasta County Superior Court records show.
Patterson believes she did not violate CVS' "shoplifter apprehension guidelines," which she says lists five things to do before confronting and apprehending a shoplifter. The policy also states "CVS/pharmacy has a 'hands off' policy relative to shoplifting apprehensions."
"I looked up apprehend in the dictionary. How are you supposed to apprehend without touching her?" Patterson said.
Redding police Sgt. Les James said law enforcement won't tell businesses how to deal with would-be shoplifters. They leave it up to the store.
"Each company has its own policy regarding interacting with shoplifters," James said.
Patterson has applied for unemployment benefits and is waiting to hear if she qualifies. She is a sole provider. Her husband, Robert, is on disability.
"I don't know. I have had such a great outpouring from everybody concerned," Patterson said about her future plans. "I am not quite sure. I haven't been unemployed in 18 years. Things are different from when I was younger."