*Chicago police say no charges will be filed against a drug store employee who choked a shoplifter to death after he stole toothpaste. An autopsy found that Anthony Kyser, 35, was strangled Saturday during the incident with an employee at a CVS drug store in the Little Village neighborhood, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
Police say the employee chased Kyser from the store after he stole some tubes of toothpaste and crayons. Witnesses said the worker caught up to him and placed him in a chokehold for several minutes.
Kyser, of the 1400 block of South Hamlin, cried, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!,” according to onlookers.
Witnesses told the Sun-Times that an off-duty officer was on the scene while Kyser was being choked. After initially saying they were unaware of a police presence, the Chicago Police Department now admits that an off-duty Cook County sheriff’s officer just happened to be there and assisted the CVS employee by calling 911.
Chicago police Lt. Maureen Biggane, a police spokeswoman, said the officer told the suspect to stop struggling and relax. And when police arrived, Kyser was unresponsive.
Witnesses stated that the officer pointed her gun at Kyser and told him to stop struggling, as Kyser repeatedly pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. But Biggane denied reports that she drew a gun at the scene. Biggane said the police have reviewed surveillance tapes and “at no time is the officer seen pointing a weapon in anyone’s direction.”
Although the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, Chicago police are treating the death as accidental and are not pressing charges against the CVS worker.
Police wouldn’t release the correctional officer’s identity. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Patterson said there is nothing for the sheriff to investigate, based on Chicago Police’s account of her actions.
CVS officials said the company is investigating the employee’s conduct and that he won’t return to work until the probe is completed.
On Monday, Kyser’s ex-wife Ann Marie Balboa was spotted by the Sun-Times pacing up and down the Little Village alley searching for the precise place where he was strangled over the weekend.
Balboa, who divorced Kyser in September, said her husband of 5½ years had a good heart and was a dedicated stepfather who taught her three sons to be respectful.
After an hour of searching in the alley, she laid a small bouquet of red flowers and two balloons against a door near where she believed he died. She was furious over the decision not to pursue charges against the store manager.
“How’s it accidental?” Balboa said. “You’re choking the (expletive) out of somebody. He should be fired. He should be facing criminal charges. You don’t take someone’s life over toothpaste.”