Category: Opinion

Shoplifting Now Punishable By Death in the U.S.?

Shoplifting Now Punishable By Death in the U.S.?

Is shoplifting now punishable by death in the U.S.?

Shoplifting is the act of knowingly taking goods from an establishment in which they are displayed for sale, without paying for them.[1] In the U.S., store employees have certain powers of arrest. For instance, store employees may detain suspects outside of and inside the store premises if they believe an individual is attempting to take or, has unlawfully taken merchandise.[2]

Store employees also have a certain level of citizen’s arrest powers. However, this power only extends to felony offenses and not misdemeanors.[3] In the U.S., shoplifting is a misdemeanor not a felony. Therefore, the crime should not be punishable by death.

The Penalty for Shoplifting in the U.S.

In 2012, an off duty police officer shot a woman who he suspected was shoplifting at Wal-Mart. At the time he shot her, two children were seated in the back of the car. Six years after this particular incident, a security guard opened fire on a homeless man that he suspected was shoplifting at a Hollywood Walgreens.

Then in 2019, reports surfaced that four individuals rushed into a Pine Hills Wal-Mart and attempted to steal baby diapers. A Wal-Mart employee approached the suspected shoplifters, while they were loading the merchandise in the back of a car. After he approached the suspected shoplifters, an armed customer shot one of them with a gun. During the same year, a Walgreens’ clerk suspected a woman of shoplifting and called a friend for assistance. The friend arrived with a gun—confronted the woman—and shot her.

There is more. In 2022, a sergeant shot and killed a man who Dollar General employees suspected was shoplifting. While law enforcement officers contend the man had a criminal history, witnesses assert the man was a friendly regular in the neighborhood who should not have been shot.

The most recent shoplifting case that appears to be punishable by death in the U.S. is the Tysons Corner Mall incident. Employees at the Tysons Corner Mall suspected a Virginia man of shoplifting designer sunglasses. Loss prevention staff then called Virginia police officers, who chased the man into the forest. The policer officers shot and killed him. Despite conflicting reports, Chief Kevin Davis admits that officers found no weapon at the scene.

Should a Suspected Shoplifter be Shot Based on their Criminal Background?

According to Davis, the suspect in the February 2023 incident was well known to police in Virginia and had a “significant violent criminal history.” With this statement, Davis seems to be suggesting that law enforcement’s shooting of the suspect was justified.

The first thing that needs to be said is that I do not condone criminality despite the argument I will now present. The suspect’s alleged criminal record does not justify the shooting. First, it is unlikely that Macy’s Department store employees knew the suspect’s identity at the time of the incident or had access to his criminal history. Second, it is unlikely that law enforcement knew or had access to the same. To identify an individual, law enforcement officers would need to ask for the individual’s government vitals and then run it through their police system. It is unlikely Virginia police carried out this step before the suspect fled the scene. Indeed, Davis admits that when officers approached the suspect he fled.

Third, the suspect was running away from police officers. This is an indication that the suspect was in flight not fight mode. During the flight response to threat, the brain signals to the individual that there is danger. It then alerts the body to escape and flee to safety. This response is quite different from the fight response, where the body may experience a rush of adrenaline. In this response, an individual may resort to physical violence and aggression, which we can agree, did not happen during this incident. To reiterate, law enforcement officers found no weapon at the scene. Even if they thought the suspect would become violent, it was clear that he was out-numbered by two police officers. In other words, the police officers had the potential to overpower the suspect. This leads me to believe the shooting was not justified.

Shoplifting now punishable by death in the U.S.? Are We Following in the Footsteps of Non-democratic Regimes?

Afghanistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and North Korea impose a death penalty for theft, which leads me to believe we are following in the footsteps of these non-democratic regimes.

Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life. It also provides for specific conditions for the imposition of the death penalty with respect to countries that have not yet abolished it. Although the U.S. ratified the Covenant on June 08, 1992, individual citizens cannot bring a complaint under the protocol.

The Human Rights Committee has articulated that countries such as the U.S.—that have not abolished the death penalty—only may impose the death penalty for the most serious crimes.[4] This means the U.S. must interpret the term “most serious crimes” restrictively and should appertain only to crimes of extreme gravity, involving intentional killing.[5] Crimes not resulting directly and intentionally in death, such as economic crimes, can never serve as the basis for the imposition of the death penalty under Article 6.[6]


[1] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Shoplifting. Wikipedia. Available at:

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] HRC (2019). Capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. A/HRC/42/28, at para. 8. Available at:

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

Mysterious Deaths in Direct Provision: Suicide or Murder?

Mysterious Deaths in Direct Provision: Suicide or Murder?

Mysterious Deaths in Ireland’s Direct Provision: Suicide or Murder?

Asylum seekers within Ireland’s direct provision institution have died under mysterious circumstances, with the coroner’s office ruling several of these cases death by suicide. In 2022, mainstream media published an article that revealed  four asylum seekers died by suicide, while the cause of death of other asylum seekers were unknown. It is not immediately clear whether these statistics include Thomas Stofiel and Muhammad Arif Ahrar, two asylum seekers who were housed in direct provision and, allegedly died by suicide. What is clear is: these deaths are indeed puzzling.

According to Malekmian, Arif was residing in the city of Monaghan in an emergency direct provision centre. Asylum seekers in that centre described Arif as an “intelligent and educated” man. While no scientific evidence shows a correlation between intelligence and levelheadedness, there seems to be an association between education and dissidence. If so, it may be the case that Arif fell under the class of dissident asylum seekers—those who are less likely to obey Milgramesque directives meted out by authority.

First, let’s consider the facts. Malekmian discovered that “those close to Arif were fearful of his mental health” and “urged him to go to the doctor” before his death. However, Abolish Direct Provision alleges that Arif had sent several e-mails to the International Protection Accommodation Service requesting to be transferred. If Arif had close connections to people in the Monaghan centre, how do you explain the copious requests for a transfer?

It could be that Arif’s request for a transfer was grounded on the idea that other cities offered better employment opportunities. A request to transfer in order to gain better access to employment is motive for life, is it not? Indeed, access to employment is undoubtedly an alibi for Arif, given employment is a requisite for most asylum seekers who have a responsibility to financially assist their families in their home countries. This raises another question: if Arif sought to assist his family back in Afghanistan, suicide would thwart this very goal, would it not?

Suicidal Disclaimer
Courtesy of Journey to the Center

Mysterious Deaths in Ireland’s Direct Provision: Suicide or Murder? If Murder, How Long Will They Get Away With It?

It may be that Arif’s transfer had little to do with employment and more to do with behaviour within the Monaghan centre itself. In Out of the Miqlaatun into the Fire, I describe the parlous state of encountering a post-Wahhabistic form of social control by so-called asylum morality police—a faction of male asylum seekers in Direct Provision, and how Islam was the driving force.

But Arif was Muslim, wasn’t he? Arif’s status as a Muslim is a plausible rebuttable to the phenomenon, in light of the fact that he would have obeyed the tenets of Islam. Building on this argument, it is quite possible that Arif would not have come to the attention of them. Further, research seems to indicate that “…asylum seekers may face unique risk factors for mental disorder before, during, and after their migration leading to suicidality.” While this may be true, the article cited asserts “the lack of early and thorough exploration of suicidal intent in this population requires large-scale quantitative studies to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of current practices in mental-health care and suicide prevention.” In other words, it is difficult to determine what may lead to an asylum seeker’s suicidality.

If research does not support the suicidal argument, could it be that we are all ignoring a common cause? Is it within the realm of possibility that another faction of asylum seekers like those mentioned in Out of the Miqlaatun into the Fire, bullied Arif to suicide? If we factor in Arif’s intelligence and education, and its connection with dissidence, are we looking at another protest psychosis incident? It is plausible that the political abuse of psychiatry, as experienced by my confidential source, may have variations to fit the individual profile of specific asylum applicants.

If so, does this point to intentional murder? The phases drafted in Dominant Woman were preliminary and mirrored the direct behaviour of men in direct provision. As far as we know, Arif was not a member of the LGBTQ community. If not LGBTQ, then it is unlikely male asylum seekers would have exposed Arif to similar phases. Moreover, Dominant Woman was silently condemned by several NGOs and politicians in Ireland, and lacked the imprimatur given to the asylum morality police. If the protest psychosis was the cause, and it has variations, how long will it be before they use it on someone else? Better yet, will it result in someone’s death?

Skip to content