DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – NorthPark Center in Dallas bills itself as one of the premiere shopping destinations in the country.
But don’t tell that to Tom O’Brien and Duong Hai To. “It was extremely humiliating,” said To.
Both men claim they were roughed up and bloodied after a shopping trip last month.
It all started when a NorthPark store reported that a man stole sunglasses.
O’Brien and To say when they left the mall, security guards were waiting. “He immediately reached for my right hand,” said O’Brien. “And then pulled it, grabbed me around and put, I can’t put it as far back as he did.”
But O’Brien and To claim that even after someone from the store told security guards they had the wrong man, they still wouldn’t let the men leave.
They say the guards really got mad when they started snapping pictures with their cell phones. “They kept pulling my arms down and twisting my body to the right side and they put the handcuffs on very, very, very tight. Very tight. I even screamed ‘that hurts. You’re hurting me. The handcuffs are too tight,’” O’Brien said.
To said, “He choked me, and put my face down on the cement. I started to bleed.”
After a police officer arrived, another security guard ultimately released them and apologized.
But how much power do security guards truly have in the state of Texas?
Under state law, security guards, shopkeepers, and anyone can detain someone they believe stole property from them as long as it’s for a reasonable amount of time and in a reasonable manner.
CBS 11 found a 1996 opinion from the Texas Attorney General that states unless the guard has directly witnesses someone committing a felony, any physical detention might be illegal.
If a guard handcuffs someone, they might be opened up to civil or criminal liability.
O’Brien and To’s lawyer, Jay English, says this case is anything but reasonable. “The length of the detention and the physical harm make this a case of extreme outrage.”
O’Brien says, “If this can happen to us, innocent people on a Sunday afternoon, it could happen to anybody.”
After the incident, O’Brien filed a report with Dallas police, and an assault complaint against the security guards.
O’Brien hasn’t heard back from police.
A NorthPark spokeswoman says the mall’s security officers followed standard procedure.
She says O’Brien was uncooperative and belligerent, which aggravated and prolonged the investigation.
The men say they were treated at a hospital for their injuries. O’Brien says he lost a platinum ring during the incident.
Both say they intend to file a lawsuit against NorthPark.
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