North Charleston attorney Marvin Pendarvis is representing a man who was assaulted by store operators after being accused of shoplifting. The March 29 assault during which the attackers repeatedly struck the accused man with a sword and held him at gunpoint was recorded on cell phone video and later posted on Facebook. Although the perpetrators have not been charged by police, Pendarvis said he will file a civil lawsuit against them.
While the lawsuit obviously is designed to exact some monetary compensation for his client, Pendarvis says he hopes the lawsuit will bring focus to other issues as well.
The incident already has resulted in public scrutiny on the proliferation of businesses owned by foreign nationals which operate in predominantly Black neighborhoods. The operators of the store are of Middle Eastern origin and have drawn sharp criticism from those who say Black communities are being economically exploited by foreign merchants and many patrons become victims of verbal and other abuse. Some critics charge that illegal activities are perpetrated at many of the businesses.
Pendarvis says there’s a lot to be sorted out. He hopes to do some of that through the lawsuit he intends to file.
The video of the assault posted on Facebook shows two men shoving Tyron Mazyck around the store and repeatedly striking him, at one point knocking him to the floor. Mazyck was arrested and charged with shoplifting. No charges were filed against the store’s operators.
Pendarvis questioned why charges against the operators have not been filed in light of the evidence captured on the video. He said he’s being told implications of the Stand Your Ground law influenced that decision. What’s unclear, he said, is the point at which Stand Your Ground collides with the right to detain a suspected shoplifter and the manner in which the suspect is detained. Hopefully the lawsuit will clarify a shopkeeper’s rights and limitations in such cases, he said.
Stand Your Ground is being used as a defense beyond its intended purpose, Pendarvis believes. The Mazyck shoplifting case draws focus on the line between defending one’s person and property and the point at which such a defense becomes excessive use of force. More specifically the case has to delineate how far shopkeepers are allowed to go before crossing the line. The incident become more blurred because sources tell him the store’s operators allowed the video recording of the incident and encouraged its posting on Facebook to show their power and authority. That step across the line should cost them, he believes.
But it’s not all about the money, Pendarvis said. People must be held accountable.
“Without the video who knows how badly it would have gotten. How people run their shop is their right as long as it’s done within legal parameters. What we hope is that our lawsuit serves to insure this type of thing doesn’t happen again,” he said.