The story of a man who was choked to death by a CVS employee after stealing toothpaste from the Chicago store on Saturday is getting even more scrutiny, after police admitted Monday that a Cook County sheriff's officer was on the scene when the man, Anthony Kyser, was killed.
Kyser, a 35-year-old barber, was chased out of the Little Village store and restrained by an employee of the store who saw him stealing, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The employee then strangled him to death.
Witnesses said Kyser, of the 1400 block of South Hamlin, cried, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" as the CVS worker held him in a chokehold for what they thought was several minutes.
Witnesses told the newspaper that there was an off-duty officer on the scene while Kyser was being choked, and after initially saying they were unaware of a police presence, the Chicago Police Department now admits that a Cook County sheriff's officer was on the scene:
As the correctional officer pointed a weapon at Kyser and told him to stop struggling, Kyser repeatedly pleaded that he couldn't breathe, the witnesses said.
[Chicago Police Lt. Lt. Maureen] Biggane said a surveillance video shows the correctional officer in the alley, speaking on a cell phone, but does not show her pointing a weapon. The officer waited for an ambulance to arrive, but left before uniformed Chicago Police arrived, Biggane said.
Police wouldn't release the correctional officer's identity. Sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson said there is nothing for the sheriff to investigate, based on Chicago Police's account of her actions.
Chicago Police will not press charges against the unnamed CVS manager, despite a medical examiner's finding that man's death was a homicide, reports MyFoxChicago.
Kyser was accused of stealing tooth paste and crayons, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Kyser was known as "Pops" to his three former step-children, reports the Chicago Tribune. Kyser's ex-wife Ann Marie Balboa questioned the police department's decision not to press charges against the CVS manager:
"How's it accidental?" Balboa said. "You're choking the [expletive] out of somebody. He [the employee] should be fired. He should be facing criminal charges. You don't take someone's life over toothpaste."
Witnesses told the Sun-Times the officer never told the employee, who has been placed on leave by CVS, to release Kyser. The witnesses also said the officer can be seen pointing a gun at Kyser on the surveillance video. Police also have not explained why the off-duty officer left the scene before uniformed officers arrived.