Saturday, July 18, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Look Before You Leap in Providence

"Woman dies after jump from Providence Place Mall garage" by Travis Andersen and Sarah Roberts Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent  July 17, 2015

A suspected shoplifter plunged 25 feet to her death from a parking garage at the Providence Place Mall Thursday night after being chased by a security guard at a luxury clothing store inside the busy shopping center, officials said.

The harrowing incident began at about 7 p.m. when the 35-year-old woman from Westerly, R.I., allegedly took clothes off the racks at Nordstrom, a high-end store located inside the mall, and then returned them at the store for about $800, according to Providence police.

A Nordstrom security officer placed a hand on the woman’s arm in an attempt to stop her, but the woman broke free and ran to the parking garage, with the security staffer in pursuit, said police Major David Lapatin.

He said that woman climbed over a railing, and the security guard urged her to come back into the garage, before she jumped. The woman was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital.

Lapatin withheld the woman’s name Friday pending notification of her family and said the investigation into her death was ongoing.

The woman had a prior criminal record that included fraud and drug charges, Lapatin said.

Additional security guards from the mall had attempted to assist the Nordstrom worker, but the woman had already jumped from the garage by the time they arrived at the scene, according to Lapatin.


Tara Darrow, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based Nordstrom chain, did say, however, that the female employee is “an experienced agent and has been with us for a number of years.”

Police have spoken with the agent, Darrow said, and the company has granted her paid time off.

There is no timetable for when she will return to work, according to Darrow.

“This was a pretty traumatic situation for her, and she’s also pretty actively involved in the investigation,” Darrow said. “We want her to be a part of the investigation and have some time to recover. . . . This is an unusual situation and obviously extremely terrible for everyone involved.”

Darrow would not say whether the deceased woman had previously attempted to steal items from the store. The incident did not force a closure of the store at any time Thursday or Friday, she said.

Nordstrom is cooperating fully with police, Darrow added, and customers should not have any concerns for their personal safety.

“Our number-one priority is obviously everyone’s safety when they’re shopping in our stores,” she said. “So we would hope that our customers would not have those concerns.”

Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s office referred questions to police. Mall and Nordstrom store employees also declined to comment when reached by phone.

Lapatin, the police official, said no criminal charges are being sought in connection with the case.