If You Shop at Walmart or Kroger, the FBI Has a Major Warning for You
The agency reports on a concerning trend that's becoming increasingly common.
Walmart and Kroger are no stranger to problems in the aisles: In Feb. 2022, both retailers were at the center of a major recall for packaged salads that had been linked to the deaths of three different people. Just last month, Walmart and Kroger both announced that they needed to limit baby formula purchases based on a massive ongoing shortage. Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has issued a major warning that impacts shoppers of both Walmart and Kroger. Read on for the latest alert.
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There have been a number of concerning incidents at Kroger and Walmart.
Walmart and Kroger have been the site of a number of criminal incidents. In just the past few weeks, there was a fatal shooting at a Walmart in North Carolina, and a major theft of nearly $2,000 worth of merchandise at a Walmart in Louisiana. At Kroger, a security guard trying to stop thieves at a store in Tennessee was dragged by a vehicle, and a Kroger employee at another store in Tennessee was arrested after firing shots at a customer in the parking lot in the last month.
In 2016, police officers across the U.S. complained about the concentration of crime at Walmart stores, Bloomberg reported. "It's ridiculous—we are talking about the biggest retailer in the world. I may have half my squad there for hours," Robert Rohloff, a 34-year police veteran who worked in Tulsa, Oklahoma told the news outlet. Last year, Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chief executive officer, said heavy organized crime at his company's stores were to blame for higher food prices.
The FBI is reporting on new crime concerns around grocery stores.
According to data from the FBI, there has been an increase in the trend of active shooter incidents taking place at grocery stores in the last few years, like that of the tragic May 14 shooting in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, according to data from the FBI. The agency reported that there has been a 100 percent increase in active shooter incidents since 2016, with 40 shootings occurring in the year of 2020 alone. Out of the 40 incidents, 24 happened in places of commerce, such as grocery stores. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of shootings at grocery stores averaged out to be less than one per year, but according to the FBI, there were two such shootings in 2018 and then six in 2020.
"Four shooters were current employees (one shooter was the company owner), and one shooter was a former employee," the FBI said in its report. The active shootings are "certainly a problem that grocery stores are recognizing," Alex Balian, a retail consultant and former grocery owner with decades of experience in the industry, told The Washington Post. "It obviously doesn't happen every week, but they have definitely increased."
A majority of these attacks happen at specific retailers.
When looking closer at places of commerce, officials notice two nationwide companies that appear to be a common target: Walmart and Kroger. One of the largest grocery store shootings in the past few years took place in 2019, when a gunman opened fire on back-to-school shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 23 people and injuring another 23. That same year, a "disgruntled" former Walmart worker shot at people in a Southaven, Mississippi, store, killing two.
In 2021, there were two mass shootings at Kroger-owned grocery stores, according to The Washington Post. One occurred at a Kroger in a Memphis suburb, where one person was killed and more than a dozen were seriously injured. The other took place in Boulder, Colorado, at a King Soopers outlet—which is owned by Kroger—and 10 people were killed.
"Nothing can prepare you for this kind of situation," Tim Massa, a senior vice president at Kroger, said during a summer 2021 panel on workplace violence organized by a food industry group, per The Washington Post. "So many feelings wash over you—you're fearful, you're angry, you're feeling the pain and importantly, just helplessness."
Both retailers responded to these incidents with policy changes.
Despite the continued rise in active shooting incidents at Walmart and Kroger, both retailers have taken action against the problem in the past. According to CNBC, the two companies took a public stance against guns in 2019, asking shoppers not to openly carry guns in any of their stores. Kroger and Walmart said that even in states where "open carry" laws allow them to do so, customers should not bring guns into their stores unless authorized by law enforcement officers.
"Kroger is respectfully asking that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores, other than authorized law enforcement officers," Jessica Adelman, Kroger's group vice president of corporate affairs, said in an emailed statement to CNBC at the time. "We are also joining those encouraging our elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those who have been found to pose a risk for violence."
Walmart also banned the sell of ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles that year, while Kroger had completely exited "the firearm and ammunition business" a year prior in 2018. "As we've seen before, these horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades," Doug McMillon, Walmart's chief executive, said in the statement at the time, per The New York Times. "We should not allow that to happen. Congress and the administration should act."
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