By Frederick Lowe
Chicago police have charged with murder a 33-year-old man who was posing as a Walgreens security guard and a police officer for shooting to death a 46-year-old woman for alleged shoplifting.
Police said Louis Hicks Jr. was arrested June 19 for the deadly shooting on June 12 of Sircie Varnado inside a Walgreens store on Chicago’s far Northwest Side.
Although Walgreens did not employ Hicks, Varnado is the second suspected Walgreens shoplifter shot to death in less than a year.
On December 2, 2018, Donald Vincent Ciota II, shot to death Jonathan Hart, a black homeless gay man, suspected of shoplifting at a Walgreens in Hollywood, California.
Ciota confronted Hart, and the two men got into a physical altercation. Ciota shot Hart in the neck as he ran out of the store. Hart died hours later in a local hospital, according to news reports. Hart’s sister has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens, Ciota and his employer.
In January, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office charged Ciota with one count of murder. Ciota worked for a company that provided security for Walgreens.
At Whole Foods on North Broadway, across the street from where I live in Chicago, a Hispanic security guard wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap and T-shirt, snapped several photos of me after I had purchased groceries and was walking out the store. I saw him, and I asked him if he was a security guard. He said no and bolted through the aisles. I wrote a letter to complain. I’m not sure photographing a person in store without their permission is legal.
Store owners and managers probably don’t think black shoppers notice how they are treated. So it is not clear if Varnado and Hart were shoplifters in reality or just in the minds of the security guards who are trained to view all blacks with suspicion. Both alleged shoplifters are dead and unable to tell their sides of the story.
The deadly shooting in Chicago closely follows the same scenario in Los Angeles. An unidentified store employee telephoned Hicks, who lived nearby because he believed Varnado was shoplifting. It was planted in Hicks’ mind that he would confront a shoplifter before he even entered the store.
Hicks stopped her, sparking a verbal argument and then a physical altercation. It ended with him shooting her in the head. She later died.
Hicks picked up the bullet casings and drove away. Before he fled, he identified himself as a police officer, police said. Neither Walgreens nor the Chicago Police Department said Hicks worked for them. Several days after the deadly shooting, he turned himself into police.
Walgreens issued this statement about the deadly shooting and the employee who telephoned Hicks.
“We extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the victim’s family. We are committed to providing a safe environment for our employees, patients, and customers in the communities we serve and continue to cooperate with the police. The suspect was not our employee. The store employee is no longer with the company.”
In addition to first-degree murder, police charged Hicks with impersonating a police officer.