Wrongful Death Suit Filed in CVS Strangulation

Man died May 8 after stuffing pocket with toothpaste

Wednesday, May 12, 2010  |  Updated 10:30 PM CDT
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A sign hangs in front of a new CVS pharmacy May 5, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois.

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The father of a shoplifting suspect allegedly strangled to death by a CVS employee as an off-duty Cook County Sheriff’s officer stood yards away filed a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against the convenience store.

Michael A. Johnson claims a CVS manager strangled his son, Anthony Kyser, while attempting to arrest him for shoplifting on May 8, according to a suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

The suit claims the manager chased Kyser from the store, located in the 2600 block of South Pulaski Road, and into a nearby alley to arrest him for allegedly shoplifting.

The manager applied a "choke hold" around Kyser’s neck and failed to release him despite pleas that he could not breath, according to the suit.

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.

An off-duty Cook County Sheriff’s officer held her gun in her hand as the employee and alleged shoplifter struggled, authorities said.

Kyser, 34, was later pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. A Sunday autopsy confirmed he died from strangulation and the death was ruled a homicide.

Surveillance video recorded the incident.

The employee will not be charged and police are treating the death as "accidental," police News Affairs Officer Daniel O'Brien said.

The suit claims the manager assaulted and battered Kyser, and the store is responsible for the manager’s actions.

The eight-count suit, which also claims false imprisonment, is seeking more than $400,000 from Highland Park CVS and the unidentified manager.

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