Shoplifting Mom Shot Dead In Walmart Parking Lot By Guard—In Front Of Two Children

Bringing the definition of “overkill” to a new level, an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a Walmart security guard shot to death a Houston mother of two he suspected was shoplifting.

Shelly Frey was shopping at Walmart with her friends, Tiasa Andrews and Yolanda Craig, when Louis Campbell, a 26-year veteran deputy, accused the women of shoplifting. The trio took off into the parking lot, Campbell fast on their heels—a chase that began with one of the women hitting Campbell on the head with a purse and that escalated when the three got into their car and tried to speed away. Frey, refusing to back down from the pursuit, fired into the car when, he says, the driver backed up and he became lodged “between the car door and the driver’s seat and feared for his safety.” Campbell shot his gun into the car with the two children in the back seat.

Let me say that one again: There were two children in the car.

Frey, who was a passenger in that car, was shot in the neck. She died a short time later at a nearby apartment building, where her friends drove after the fatal scuffle. Andrews, Yolanda and the two children riding in the back seat—they were not Frey’s kids—escaped injury, but the grown-ups later were arrested and charged with shoplifting.

Frey leaves behind two children. One of those children, a 2-year-old, suffers from sickle cell anemia, an illness, Frey’s mother says, that made it hard for her daughter to work, thus putting a severe strain on the young mother’s finances. Indeed, she’d pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing shirts and a package of meat from Walmart and agreed to avoid the discount big-box store as part of a plea agreement.

Now, Frey’s parents are looking for answers. “Why couldn’t you just shoot the tire, shoot the window?” asked Sharon Wilkerson, Frey’s mother, in an interview with Houston’s KHOU 11 News. “Was it that serious?”

Apparently, Campbell thought it was. As do all-too-many commenters on news sites that posted stories about Frey’s shooting death. Against my own better judgment, I waded into the madness, only to read people callously peg Frey a shoplifting criminal who would be alive today if she didn’t shoplift, run from the security guard or get into a car with a woman who tried to run down an armed mall cop.

Why yes, that sentiment makes all the sense in the world if you don’t view black mothers as human, think vigilantism should be the law of the land (Stand Your Ground, anyone?) and are all for Walmart security shooting people in the neck for looking like they’re stealing some of the cheap shit they’re hawking in the billion-dollar chain store.

The rest of us—people whose knuckles don’t drag the ground and who actually believe in innocent until proven guilty and the sanctity of ALL human life—think more deeply. Or at least more rationally. Here’s a novel idea of how the whole messy affair could have gone down much cleaner, with Frey walking away alive: Campbell could have given chase to the car. He could have left his gun in his holster and instead grabbed a pen to record the license plate number on the car. He could have then called on-duty cops and let them do their jobs. The cops could have tracked down the owner of the car, done an investigation and arrested the women if they did, indeed, shoplift.

Boom. A mother is alive to raise her children. Two babies have their mama—even if she is convicted of shoplifting and her kids are seeing her through prison bars. Two parents aren’t mourning their child and planning a funeral two weeks before Christmas. Walmart has their little cheap goods back. A police officer doesn’t have to toss and turn at night, knowing he took someone’s life over, what? A couple shirts and a pack of meat?

Right.

Rest in peace, Shelly Frey. Lord knows you didn’t deserve the death penalty because someone thought you stole a few ugly shirts from Walmart. I mean, really.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

28 Comments

  1. What is wrong with people? I can’t even understand this, firing a gun into a car with children in the car? Words fail me.

  2. Women like Frey give Wal-Mart a bad name, and make it hard for decent black women in America. Her actions do nothing more than enforce the negative stereotypes that abound in the media.

    What type of Mother would shoplift with ANY child in her company.

    • Many young women do things they later regret or things they would not do under normal circumstances; even stupid things. But does that warrant the death penalty? I think not. Some of us have forgotten our way.

    • Its beyond the fact that their we’re children present. They weren’t her children, but there nonetheless. We cannot judge anyone’s actions because we do not know what drove them to that point of desperation. She did not deserve to die, nor did those children need to witness that. There is enough wrong riddled in that situation before we even began to pass judgement.

    • This happens, and all you care about are stereotypes and bad names? Really?

  3. Shoplifting? He shot and killed a shoplifter?????
    Would he have shot her if she was white?
    I’m just saying….

    • Exactly!

      • Technical she shoplifted, hit him with her purse, fled the scene, and pinned him with her car, which could have killed him. If this had been my wife, brother or sister, I wouldn’t have asked them to get ran over for this anyone like this. Speaking from the black perspective, we should condemn this kind of behavior instead of “blaming it on the man”….sorry but it’s true.

  4. Why in the world is a Walmart security guard carrying a gun? This is awful.

  5. Wow! I’m really getting tired of hearing about this sort of thing. Since when is it o.k. to kill someone if they are black? This just make no since to me. Hope some justice comes of this.

    • I would say that jumping to the conclusion they were killed because they are black is small minded and on the verge of reverse psychology racism. They were shot for assaulting a police officer which is a felony. Not to mention prior to that they were shoplifting and were already proving their inability to be responsible parents by bringing their children to what they new was dangerous and illegal. It’s a more complex situation than that and not even close to being a hate crime. I’d say the rest of the world is tired of the race card being played when there were rather obvious other factors involved that have to be neglected when trying to pin the blame simply as being a racial issue. Simply saying it’s because they are black would be just as racist as someone else saying they were stealing because they are black. It’s simply not the reality of the situation at hand and until people stop using color as an excuse for laying blame or their reasoning for these situations happening and learn to grow up and take responsibility for their actions there will never be true equality.

  6. she gets shot in the neck….. and her sorry azz friends drove her to the APARTMENT… where she died…… that’s some honey boo boo crap right there! they should be charged… with ignorance!

    • The friends did not drive the injured woman to a hospital, because they were guilty. Afraid of going to jail, I am sure.

  7. Lets not play the race card. She was stealing and committing a crime. No it wasnt good to shoot into a car with kids, but she and her rat friends committed a crime. The friends weren’t smart enough to take her to the hospital. What idiots. I get sick of tired of black folks committing crimes and want to cry wolf and the man is holding them down.

  8. I wish we had more information because I think depending on media reports to get the information correct the first time around. If they assaulted a police officer – and he was dressed as a cop, and not just a security guard – then it’s a robbery, and not simply “shoplifting.” There is also some evidence that they didn’t just run to their car, but rather they had a getaway car, a car that was already running, ready to go. There are also conflicting reports about whether the driver put the car in drive or reverse. If it was reverse, then she hit him with the car. If it was forward, and he was knocked off balance, that’s more tricky. It’s also not clear if he intentionally shot to kill – if he was on the driver’s side, it’s hard to imagine the projection of the bullets that only hit someone in the passenger’s side.

    I’m just not ready to condemn this man when we don’t know all the facts. I can say this, however: it wouldn’t of happened if she was not in the store stealing. The kids wouldn’t have been an issue if these women had not brought children with them to steal. And he would of had no reason to pull his gun if they would have stopped when confronted. As I tell my kids, we can only control our own actions, and not the actions of others. And as a people, we need to think about what message we send to our children when we protest without all the info and when we don’t acknowledge the comparative fault in these situations.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Here’s the message I give to my children every single solitary day of the week, @gradmommy: no matter the situation or circumstance, it is ALWAYS our duty to protect the sanctity of human life. Of course, the woman and her friends were at fault IF they were stealing. That much, we don’t even know. What we do know is that a security guard (who happened to be an off-duty cop) accused them of stealing, chased them out into the parking lot, somehow got lodged into the car and shot into said car, taking a human life. As I wrote above, he could have just as easily taken the license plate number and called it in. Coupled with videotaped footage of the three allegedly shoplifting, Walmart could have pressed charges and human life could have been spared. I mean, really: does anyone need to die over some cheap Walmart goods? And should an off-duty cop have to spend the rest of his life knowing he killed someone to protect the property of a billion dollar corporation that is probably paying him barely minimum wage for his trouble? I said it before and I’ll say it again: OVERKILL.

      • We are more certain that the women were stealing than we are certain about anything else. The officer did not accuse them of stealing; he was acting because the Walmart employees told him they saw the women stealing on security footage.

        It is a question as whether he could have just as easily taken the license plate number. They hit him and ran to a waiting car. As an officer, it was his job to confront them. Another question is whether he could have thought his life was in danger. Some reports say that the car reversed. I don’t have any evidence to answer either question. All I’m saying is I’d like to know exactly what happened before jumping to the conclusion that he was absolutely in the wrong or that he overreacted.

        I don’t think life should be taken over stuff. Is the question whether he should of chased them at all?

        My gut is telling me that this man shot them not because they were taking stuff, but because he, as a police officer, was assaulted and they were trying to run him over with their car. I don’t think this is a case of him not putting value in black mother’s lives. As far as I understand, this Walmart is in an area where at least half of the people who shop at this Walmart are black and I’m sure he’s seen lots of shoplifters.

        But in any case: Why is it wrong to practice a bit of caution before we start jumping to conclusions?

        • Denene@MyBrownBaby

          My conclusion is this: if a security guard at Walmart (seriously, why are there ARMED security guards at Walmart?) sees someone stealing, he/she should call the cops. Really, is there a need/policy/reason to chase them on behalf of Walmart? Or is it smarter for everyone involved—the guard, the people ALLEGEDLY committing the crime and every other shopper in the store and parking lot (let’s not forget that this was in a public parking lot, presumably full of shoppers who could have easily been harmed by flying bullets) to let the alleged offenders leave with the cheap shirts and packaged meat and let the ON DUTY cops do their jobs? Anything that transpired after he allegedly saw them stealing was OVERKILL. No, I do not think he should have chased them. He was doing THE MOST when he chased them, when he ran after their car, when he tried to hop into the car and when he fired into the car. And I certainly don’t think I’m “jumping to conclusions” by saying no human being should have her life ended for shoplifting.

        • Hitting him over the head with a purse is not a reason to shoot. He could have shot at the tires and stopped the car. Why is it Wal-mart policy to chase these people once they have left the store in the first place. That’s stupid. Period. Many stores, and I’ve talked to the officers in the store, have a policy that once it leaves their premises, they DON’T CHASE!

    • You have restored my faith in humanity. Thank you for that response.

  9. Recall my grandmother 40 yrs ago explaining the job hazards of stealing as prison/getting killed or getting away with the crime. She harped that any of the 3 was a strong possibility and that I should consider if I wanted to pay the ultimate cost. She’s been deceased 25 yrs but her advise still rings true.

  10. Although I agree the force used in this case was most likely excessive. I think the question needs to be brought up regarding the quality of the people involved to place children into danger of this sort of magnitude. While I don’t deny that the force used may have been a very poor choice I have to say that the poor choices began with the people that decided to go shoplifting with children in the car.

  11. Idiot with a gun. Judge jury and executioner. Let’s hope he gets life for this murder.

  12. This really breaks my heart. First, that a mother has to resort to stealing to feed and clothe her family and 2nd that she is gunned down in front of two children. Unbelievable!

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