By Katherine Longjohn
WOODLAND, CA – The evidence portion of the trial of Joseph Betancourt for second degree robbery of a Walmart on Oct. 24 concluded Wednesday in Yolo County Superior Court after the examination of a key witness present at the scene.
Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub called the key witness, the employee who saw and attempted to stop the alleged robbery, according to video surveillance and his witness testimony.
This employee, a former member of the U.S. Air Force, is the current Asset Protection Operations Coach for this particular Walmart, and according to him his duty is to monitor the store’s merchandise and to look out for and possibly stop potential shoplifting.
Taking into consideration that most people were wearing masks at the time of the alleged incident at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the employee said, “when you have the majority of your head and forehead and your eyes are completely concealed to where you don’t want anyone looking at your face, that to me is suspicious.”
After taking notice, the employee described how he then saw Betancourt take a green jacket and a green satchel from the apparel section of the store and attempt to move past the point of final sale which is when the employee intervened.
The employee said he identified himself to Betancourt and attempted a “gentle redirection,” which is the guiding of a shoplifting suspect with an open hand away from the store’s exit, however the employee said Betancourt did not react well to this maneuver and tried to move past him and “leave with (his) merchandise.”
At this point, the employee describes how Betancourt tried to play a “tug-of-war” with the stolen merchandise and attempted to “break his grip.”
However, per Walmart’s policy, the employee described how he didn’t attempt to pull Betancourt, but rather “root himself in place” in order to prevent the items from being stolen.
As a result of this altercation, the employee described how Betancourt then slipped out of the bag he still had a grip on and ran from the store, leaving the satchel he attempted to steal behind.
While this may seem like a trivial loss for Walmart, a multinational and multibillion dollar retail corporation, the Asset Protection Operations Coach emphasized the importance of these thefts, estimating that his store loses roughly between $1,500 and $1,800 each week.
Following the dismissal of this witness, Judge Peter Williams called the evidentiary portion of this trial to a close and proceeded to read the jury instructions before entering closing arguments.