June 2000: Four Lord & Taylor Security Guards Torture Man to Death Over $4 Merchandise

Posted: November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

It was not until one day after the rally, on July 6, that the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office issued a public statement that one of the guards involved in Finley’s death, Dennis Richardson, 29, would be charged with involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Richardson could face 15 years in jail and a $7,500 fine.

Geoffrey Fieger, attorney for the family, called the manslaughter charge “incomplete justice,” stating Richardson should have been charged with second-degree murder. He also asked why the other guards involved in the attack were not being charged.

At least four other guards were involved in the confrontation besides Richardson, but the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has not said whether it will bring other charges. Dearborn police held three security guards, including Richardson, overnight on the day that Finley was killed, but released them without charges the next day. The Dearborn Police Department issued a statement all but openly defending the actions of the guards, going so far as to suggest that the Finley family was acting as a shoplifting ring.

While there have been several conflicting reports about the events surrounding the strangulation death of Finley, no one disputes that nothing more was involved than the alleged theft of a $4.00 bracelet by Frederick Finley’s 11-year-old stepdaughter.

According to the police reports released on June 22, security guards employed by Lord & Taylor observed Teera Walker on a video camera placing a beaded Indian bracelet on her wrist as she and her sister were walking in the store behind Finley and his wife Carla Sullivan-Finley. Frederick and Carla purchased several items while they shopped at the store in addition to filling out a credit card application, giving all of their personal information.

After the family left the store, five security guards dressed in plain clothing followed the family to the parking lot. The family has stated that the guards did not identify themselves and all five guards confronted the two young girls. Attorney Fieger has acknowledged that the child walked out of the store with the bracelet, but contends it was simply a case of absentmindedness and the family had intended to pay for the item.

Finley, ahead of the family and by this time in the car, got out when he saw the group of adults confronting the two girls. According to the police report, taken at the scene and based solely on interviews with the security guards, Finley punched Richardson before he was restrained by the other guards. The guards knocked Finley to the ground, and one guard handcuffed Finley’s right hand while another held his legs. At the same time Richardson placed his knee on Finley’s neck and cuffed his left hand.

Richardson, a Detroit firefighter moonlighting as a security guard, placed Finley’s neck in a choke hold, or “semi-restraining head lock position,” according to one police report. Within 10 seconds Finley’s body went limp.

The brutal killing of Finley was documented in the police reports of officers who arrived while Finley was being held down by the guards. Dearborn police officer Daniel J. Ayotte’s report states, “I observed a black male (heavy build) face down, with another black male on top of him. The black male on top turned out to be a Lord & Taylor Loss Prevention officer…. The black male Loss Prevention officer had his arms around the other male’s head and neck and stated he was handcuffed in the front. The black male on the ground appeared to be unconscious and unresponsive…. Officer Ellis checked for a pulse and found it to be erratic. The black male Loss Prevention officer then yanked the other black male suspect off the ground, stating, ‘Get the F__k up,’ and then dropped him back down on the ground. The black male suspect was still unresponsive and a rescue unit was called.”

Phil Jewell, an eyewitness to the incident, recalled he heard Finley cry out, “Get off me, get off me.” Jewell said his voice went silent and his face turned purple. “I knew right there that he was dead.”

According to Geoffrey Fieger, Richardson pulled a chain Finley was wearing around his neck, cutting off his air supply at the trachea.

On Friday, June 23, the Wayne County Medical Examiner carried out an autopsy of Finley but was unable to make a determination of the cause of death. On Monday, June 26, Fieger had an independent autopsy conducted by nearby Macomb County Medical Examiner Werner Spitz, who concluded that Finley died of asphyxiation. Later, on June 30, the Wayne County medical examiner finally concurred that Finley died of asphyxiation, or neck compression.



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