Whole Foods hiring new security after alleged assault

A spokesman for Whole Foods Market says they’re hiring a new security firm for their Oakland store near Lake Merritt after an armed security guard allegedly assaulted a customer Thursday night.

Police were summoned to the scene at 9:42 p.m. on request from firefighters who were treating an unconscious man at the store, located at 230 Bay Place.

A witness said on social media that the customer had been buying groceries with an EBT card, used to distribute food stamp benefits, when the violence occurred.

The customer had allegedly made physical contact with a store employee when the guard intervened, Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss said.

The guard in question allegedly slammed the victim against concrete pillars before choking and restraining him and throwing the shopper face down on the pavement, according to one account. Graphic photos were posted online showing the victim bleeding on the ground.

That guard has since been barred from working at Whole Foods in the future, and the upscale grocery chain is working with all their security contractors to reiterate the company’s code of conduct, according to a statement issued this afternoon by Krauss:

“As a result of the violent behavior of the security guard at Whole Foods Market Oakland, we are replacing this security firm in the store.”

The new firm has been identified as A.G.S. Private Security in Concord.

While much of what’s been reported about the incident has alleged that use of an EBT card had a role in the altercation, Krauss said it isn’t true:

“We want to clarify that EBT cards are readily accepted forms of payment at all Whole Foods Market stores.”