A 68-year-old Gem Lake man, in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, alleges that he was jumped, kicked and beaten by three Ramsey County deputies and a Cub Foods security guard after he tried to leave the grocery store with free food samples for his wife, who was waiting in their car.
According to claims in the suit, workers at the White Bear Lake store on April 24, 2010, had told Erwin Lingitz he could take the samples out. But when he left the store, a store security guard confronted him and ignored his protests that he had done nothing wrong. He was taken to the Ramsey County jail, where he was denied medication, the suit says. A surveillance videotape of the incident was erased, the suit claims.
The suit names eight defendants: Ramsey County, the county Sheriff’s Office, three deputies, the guard, the guard’s employer, Twin City Lawmen Inc., and Supervalu Inc., which owns Cub Foods. It is seeking a minimum of $375,000 in damages stemming from civil rights violations, use of excessive force, negligence and denial of medical care.
One of the deputies, Daniel Eggers, in January was involved in the confiscation of a video camera from a bystander, Mark Henderson, as he recorded officers frisking a bloody-faced man in Little Canada and loading him into an ambulance. The camera was eventually returned, and Henderson, who was later charged, claims his recording had been erased.
According to the account in the suit, Lingitz left his wife, who has difficulty getting around, in their car while he went to pick up a prescription for her. He was offered free samples of luncheon meats and sauces, and he said Cub workers gave him extras to share with his wife.
As he left the store, he was confronted by the guard, who accused him of shoplifting and pinned him against a stack of water softener salt as Lingitz yelled for help. The suit claims that Lingitz was cooperative but that deputies overreacted after they arrived, slamming Lingitz into the sidewalk as they tried to handcuff him, kicking him in the head and ribs.
A photo accompanying the suit shows Lingitz with two blackened eyes, a gashed nose and a bruised head.
The lawsuit had not been received by Ramsey County late Thursday, said spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein, so officials were not able to comment.
Responding to the lawsuit, Mike Siemienas, spokesman for Supervalu, said the allegations are not true, and the company plans to rigorously defend itself in court.
Not only did Lingitz not get approval from store workers to take the samples out to his wife, Siemienas said, but he took far more samples from the unattended food offerings than normal. “A reasonable person would not fill two produce bags with 1.4 pounds of free samples to take out of the store,” Siemienas said.
Siemienas also asserted that Lingitz did not cooperate after the security guard confronted him with a reasonable suspicion that he was shoplifting goods from the store, noting it took three deputies to place him in custody.
The reality, he added, is very different than what is presented in the suit.