New surveillance video shows deadly takedown of Lakeland shoplifter

Haley Hinds Reporting

- We're hearing and seeing newly-released recordings from the deadly takedown of a shoplifter at a Lakeland Walmart back in February.

Kenneth Wisham was asphyxiated.

Three store employees have since been charged with manslaughter.

Surveillance videos takes us back to February 7th, just before 3 a.m.

It shows 64-year-old Wisham pushing his cart around the store, filling it with about $400 worth of items like DVDs, video games, aspirin and a toaster.

From a different camera view, he rolls past the registers without paying, sets off the alarm and an employee stops him.

As more approach, Wisham grabs his coat, ditches the cart and runs through the parking lot with employees tailing him.
Wisham would soon be pronounced dead with Randy Tomko, Crucelis Nunez and Nathan Higgins charged with second-degree manslaughter.

They gave their accounts to police on the day it happened.

"He was on the grass," Nunez said. "It looked like he was about to fall so I just nudged him a little bit so he could fall over and then I just tried to leave him on the ground... I just held him down... his face went down to the ground... because Randy's whole body was on top."

"He started swinging at me, swinging at me and her both," Tomko said. "I tried to grab his wrist and just hold him from maybe getting in his pockets because I didn't know if he had a gun or a knife."

"I just went over and grabbed the guy's feet to keep from kicking," Higgins said. "I only held him for like a minute and then I let go."

"He's fighting saying, 'Let me go, I didn't go anything, I didn't do anything.' I think at one point he did say 'I can't breathe'," Nunez said. "I kind of didn't hold him down as hard... I checked over by his neck and I felt him swallow so I was like, 'He's fine,' and then, I checked again because I didn't see his body moving. Then, I checked again and I said, 'I don't feel anything.'"

All three employees acknowledged in the interviews that Walmart's policy is not to touch shoplifters.

But, here's what witnesses saw:

"The first gentleman, as he was running, the lady caught up with him, jumped on his back, he fell to the ground and she was punching him in the head, closed fists," Rebecca Baggett said. "The gentleman never punched back. He was holding his hands over his head, fell to the ground, got back up. The lady was still punching him. Fell back down again and that's when the third man with the limp came and put his knee in his back."

The "third man" she's referring to is Tomko.

"He was screaming let me go, let me go, and wiggling," said Assistant Manager Erica Emerling.

When Detective Stacey Pough asked her how long she guessed they were on top of him, she said, "Probably four to five minutes."

An autopsy report found Wisham died from mechanical asphyxia due to restraint.

He had 15 broken ribs, and the report also noted that he suffered from emphysema and heart disease.

EMTs told police they could tell the ribs were broken before they began CPR.

"I know the sensation of breaking ribs and they were already broken when I did 'em," said Andrew Rodriguez with Polk County EMS. "For sure I know that because it was just very easy to compress."

Jeffrey Holmes, the lawyer for Randy Tomko has said, "It's tragic that Wisham died but these employees were just doing their jobs."

He maintains that Florida law gives retail employees the right to detain shoplifters.

If convicted, Tomko, Nunez and Higgins could each face up to 15 years in prison.

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