Indiana Woman Sues Grocery, Ex-Manager Over Shooting

February 12, 2013

A woman who was held hostage by a man who tried to rob a Kroger store in Indianapolis is suing the grocery chain and the store’s former manager, claiming she was traumatized when a manager fatally shot the would-be robber.

Christine Nelson’s lawsuit filed Feb. 1 in Marion Superior Court seeks unspecified damages and contends she suffered “extreme mental anguish and emotional distress” by being held hostage in the midst of gunfire and seeing 26-year-old Jeremy Atkinson fatally shot.

Atkinson grabbed Nelson, who worked for a company that provided unarmed security guards for the Kroger store, as she stepped out of the store office, The Indianapolis Stars reports. Atkinson had already taken one security guard hostage.

Hearing the women’s cries for help, store manager Elijah Elliott rushed to see what was happening. When Atkinson lunged toward him, Elliot squeezed off three shots from his handgun, killing the would-be robber.

Nelson’s suit contends she was endangered and traumatized by the shooting December 2011 at the store on the city’s northwest side.

Elliott resigned after the shooting, acknowledging that he violated Kroger’s policy barring employees from having weapons on company property. An investigation by the Marion County prosecutor’s office concluded that Elliott had used reasonable force, and he was not charged. Elliott had a valid Indiana gun permit.

Investigators determined after the shooting that Atkinson was unarmed, but the first employee he assaulted thought he had pressed an object against her back, authorities said. Atkinson had served time for armed robbery and was let out of prison on work-release in 2011. At the time of the shooting, he was wanted for violating his work-release program.

An attorney representing the Cincinnati-based grocery chain and Elliott has asked the judge to dismiss the suit on the grounds that Nelson did not state a basis for her allegation that the store was negligent. An Indiana law passed in 2010 allows employees to keep firearms in their locked cars at work, but employers can bar them from being carried during actual work.

It is the second lawsuit stemming from robbery. Atkinson’s mother filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit for $75,000 last July, claiming Kroger neglected to enforce a policy that prohibits employees from carrying firearms while on duty and “owed Atkinson a duty to exercise reasonable care for his safety” while he was in the store.

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