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Woman fired from Lowe’s after pursuing shoplifting suspect

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End of 18-year employment attributed to safety policy violation

By Sarah Bennett

Karen Sizemore worked at the Lowe’s in Elizabethtown for nearly 18 years when she pursued a shoplifting suspect last week as he fled the home improvement store with a $579 Dewalt tool kit.

As Sizemore attempted to recover the item, the man slammed his car door on her arm.

A week later, as she continued to bear a long yellow-and-purple bruise on her arm, the 55-year-old was fired.

“(The assistant manager) said that I had put other associates in danger, myself in danger, and that they would have to terminate me,” Sizemore recalled Wednesday.

On Thursday, a representative at Lowe’s corporate office in North Carolina said the company cannot comment on individual terminations but added the home improvement store has a policy concerning the handling of shoplifters.

According to Lowe’s, the purpose of that policy is to protect the safety of its employees and customers.

Sizemore, who was a customer service associate in the store’s tool department, said that type of tool kit had been stolen four times and a loss prevention employee instructed her to keep an eye on the product.

Virgil Willoughby, spokesman for Elizabethtown Police Department, said officers have responded to Lowe’s four times since Jan. 1 in reference to shoplifting.

So when Sizemore watched a man place a Dewalt tool kit in his cart Oct. 1, she said she decided to watch him.

“I thought it was kind of strange that at 9:30 at night someone’s in a store buying a $600 tool kit,” she said.

Sizemore said she observed as the man proceeded past the cash registers and customer service area before maneuvering the item around the store’s metal detectors and out the door.

“He bolts out the door and I’m right behind him,” Sizemore said. “It wasn’t even a split second. I didn’t think. I just bolted out the door right behind him to the car.”

According to Sizemore, at least one employee followed her out of the store. Though Sizemore said she attempted to remove the kit from the car, she never touched the suspect.

Elizabethtown officers later arrested Kyle S. Heim, 32, of Vine Grove. He is charged with first-degree robbery.

According to Sizemore, an assistant manager told her of the shoplifting policy after the incident.

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember ever reading that,” she said.

Willoughby said while Sizemore “had the best of intentions,” he would recommend against going hands on with a shoplifter.

“My recommendation as a police officer to any employee is you don’t have a weapon,” he said. “Many of these shoplifters have a weapon on them somewhere.”

What an employee can do, Willoughby said, is observe the shoplifter, watch him or her leave and provide officers with a license plate number and description of the suspect and vehicle.

Sizemore said she is considering pursuing civil action and intends to find another job in retail. She does not want her position at Lowe’s back.

“You just get to that point that you’re fed up with people coming in and stealing all the time, and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it,” Sizemore said. “Then I do one thing. Out of the 18 years I’d been there, I’d never, ever done anything like that.”

“(I feel) let down,” she said later. “They turned their back on me like the 18 years I worked for them doesn’t matter.”

Sarah Bennett can be reached at 270-505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.