Black Friday was given a new meaning on Thanksgiving day when one store employee was trampled to death.
VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBS) ? We’re used to seeing scenes like this across the country — people running, pushing, trying to get their hands on the great bargains. But on Friday – better known as "Black Friday" to millions upon millions of holiday shoppers across the country, a scene like this turned deadly as a mob stampeded over a security guard at a Long Island Wal-Mart.
The heavy glass and steel sliding doors were literally knocked off their hinges in the shopper-stampede-to-be-first. Then the wave of humanity caved in on defenseless Wal-Mart workers as they opened early — 5 a.m. — for the annual bargain hunting ritual that kicks off the morning after Thanksgiving.
"The crowd pushed so forcefully that they crashed the doors down and one of the workers from Wal-Mart was pushed to the floor as the crowd entered the store, many of them running," said Det. Lt. Michael Fleming of the Nassau County Police Department.
Cell phone video obtained by CBS 2 HD shows Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old part-time employee hired as a holiday temp. He was crushed in the onslaught and pronounced dead an hour later. As responding Nassau police and paramedics tried to save him, they were also jostled and pushed to the ground.
"The man got trampled, stomped on — everybody banged through the doors," witness Terrence Howard said.
Witness Kimberly Cribbs said all those people who got in went right on shopping after the worker was run over.
"Oh yes, they’re savages," Cribbs said.
As 2,000 customers surged ahead, several hundred began cutting the line creating mass chaos. Many bargain-hunters said they watched in horror.
"Pushing in, pounding through the doors to get TVs and electronics," Sean Newman said.
"I will never do this again as long as I live. I wish I was never here this morning," another woman added.
Three other shoppers and a 28-year-old pregnant woman who suffered minor injuries were also taken to hospitals for observation.
"I am happy to report that she did not miscarry and that baby will be okay," Det. Lt. Fleming said.
Damour, the American-born son of Haitian immigrants, grew up in Freeport and graduated from Freeport High School in 1993. His friends and family call him "Jimmy" or "Demitri" and describe him as "a big guy," who "was always laughing."
He attended Nassau County Community College for a time but apparently didn’t graduate, according to relatives.
His cousin, Nicole Jean, was on the phone to Damour’s mother in Haiti Friday evening trying to help her arrange a flight to New York. His father, Orgera Charles, seemed shell-shocked at his apartment in Flushing, saying "He didn’t get married. He didn’t have the baby yet."
Nicole Jean said Damour’s supervisor at the temp service where he worked complained that Wal-Mart wasn’t using him for the intended job.
"He wasn’t supposed to be working security on the door," she quoted him as saying. She seemed to be blaming the store for creating the situation that lead to the man’s death.
The man’s cousin and father said he has extended family in Queens and on Long Island in the Hicksville area. A funeral will likely be scheduled next week.
The Wal-Mart re-opened around 1 p.m.
Police have seized surveillance video. Some in the crowd may face criminal charges, amid questions if Wal-Mart’s security was adequate as they promoted huge sales.
Wal-Mart issued a statement, which reads: "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time. We are working closely with the Nassau county police as they investigate what occurred."
CBS 2 HD’s Lou Young contributed to this report.