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Man collapses and dies on Black Friday; unfazed shoppers step over his body

Walter Vance, died while shopping
Walter Vance, died while shopping
WSAZ screen grab

Black Friday this year became blacker than usual for the family of Walter Vance, of Logan County, West Virginia. The 61-year-old pharmacist was shopping at a crowded Target store when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

If the story ended there, it would be a local and personal tragedy. But the reaction of other shoppers converts the incident into an outrage with national implications. Charleston TV station WSAZ reports that customers by and large ignored the sight of a man crumpled on the floor and went on hunting for bargains. Some even stepped over the body and went about their business.

From all outward indications, the staff of Target was far from blameless. A report by WSAZ mentions Target’s “company policy,” which precludes its employees doing any more than phoning 911 in situations like this. Presumably that means that a salesman or cashier who knows CPR and attempts to save a life risks losing his job.

The incident occurred at around 12:15 a.m. on Friday. Vance, who owns a drug company, was shopping for Christmas decorations for his newly remodeled workplace when he became ill and collapsed.

The news report observes that friends and co-workers were not surprised to learn about the cause of Vance’s death in view of his history of chronic heart problems. All, however, were shocked by the circumstances surrounding his death. One of his employees is quoted as asking:

Where is the good Samaritan side of people? How could you not notice someone was in trouble? I just don't understand if people didn't help what their reason was, other than greed because of a sale.

The same greed and indifference to human suffering prompted a shopper at a Los Angeles Wal-Mart to pepper spray nearly two dozen others to keep them away from the merchandise she was eyeing. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, gunfire erupted, and in Pittsburgh a fistfight broke out over yoga pants at a Victoria’s Secret in a suburban mall.

Shortly after his appointment to the office of attorney general in 2009, Eric Holder lambasted the U.S. for being a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race relations. Many have questioned the legitimacy of Holder’s remarks, but even if he is right, the events of this past Friday suggest that we’ve got a much larger problem to deal with in this country.

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