LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A case of shoplifting ended tragically in Lakeland when the suspect died after being detained Sunday morning.
Now, several employees are under temporary suspension while investigators try to figure out what happened.
The investigation started just after 3 o'clock Sunday morning. Lakeland police said 64-year-old Kenneth Wisham's final hours were less than ideal. Officers said he was shoplifting $380 worth of DVDs from Walmart when he was confronted by employees.
He took off running; eventually falling to the ground and detained by the workers.
At that point they realized he'd stopped breathing.
"He died during the commission of a criminal act. It's just like a homicide investigation," said Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross. "It is very unfortunate for us, for the community, that this happened - especially for those employees at Walmart that had to deal with this."
The employees, police and EMS all did what they could to resuscitate Wisham, but he died at the hospital 12 hours later.
Walmart says it's cooperating with police and has suspended the employees involved in the incident pending the outcome of the investigation, which they say is standard procedure.
"It puts things in perspective I guess…chasing him out. Did it get his blood pressure up? I don't know," said shopper Bob Long.
"He shouldn't have done what he did...in the end a tragedy happened," said shopper Steve Gennett.
Wisham has been arrested at least once before in Polk County for burglary and grand theft in 2015.
"We're not insensitive to the fact that he died during a criminal act. That's still somebody's brother... a father possibly," said Sgt. Gross.
Police are still waiting for the results of an autopsy to determine his cause of death.