PORTER RANCH (CBSLA.com) — How much are Black Friday bargains worth when your health and safety are put at risk?
A woman who was the victim of a particularly turbulent Black Friday a couple of years ago now wants to share her story in hopes of preventing and further dangerous incidents.
Black Friday 2011 was just beginning, and Wal-Mart customers in Porter Ranch were stampeding to get the items they wanted.
Amid the crowd was Carmen Johnson, who was shopping with her daughter.
The store was about to make available the deal they wanted when Johnson felt the crowd start to push forward.
“You just hear screaming and yelling, and you see cardboard fly up in the air, and that was it,” Johnson said. “It was just barbaric.”
Johnson then says she heard what sounded like a spray coming from within the unruly crowd. It turned out to be pepper spray.
“I just heard a mist, like a spray, and it goes right across my face and I couldn’t breathe,” Johnson recalled. “It was stinging me. My whole face was burning.”
A female shopper, captured on a cell phone video, had unleashed a stream of pepper spray on the crowd. After the woman was identified, her attorney argued that she had used the pepper spray against the crowd to protect her two young children.
Today, with the memory of customers around her screaming in pain, Johnson says she is still in disbelief that the woman was never charged for her actions that day.
“I was violated and nothing happened,” Johnson said. “As much as I tried to get a reaction from somebody, nothing happened.”
Wal-Mart, meanwhile, says it has learned from that episode, and that it is taking steps to prevent such an incident from happening during Black Friday 2013.
“That was an unfortunate incident, but each of our stores has a crowd-control plan in place,” Wal-Mart’s Rachel Wall said.
Much less merchandise will be on the floor itself, and supervised queue lines will be implemented. Security, using radios, will also be bolstered in the stores.
“We want this to be an orderly, pleasant, safe shopping experience for our customers,” Wall said.
For Carmen Johnson, however, that goal comes two years too late.
“I’ll never forget that day, ever.”