Supermarket Employee’s Fired After Filming Shoplifters in Action

In a shocking turn of events, a Colorado supermarket employee has found himself at the center of a heated debate surrounding workplace policies and the role of employees in preventing theft. Santino Burrola, a former military police officer, was recently terminated from his job at a King Soopers store after filming a group of thieves making off with hundreds of dollars’ worth of laundry products.

Burrola’s actions, which he claims were in direct response to instructions from his superiors, have sparked a wider conversation about the delicate balance between employee safety, corporate policies, and the pursuit of justice. As the details of this case unfold, it raises important questions about the responsibilities and limitations faced by frontline workers in the retail industry.

Burrola’s Account: Following a “Direct Order”

In a candid interview with Fox News, Burrola recounted the events that ultimately led to his dismissal. According to the former employee, he had been instructed by a supervisor to obtain the license plate number and other identifying details of the suspected shoplifters. “I was given a direct order by the third person in charge to get the license plate, and my initial reaction was to record,” Burrola explained.

Burrola’s reasoning was straightforward: by capturing video evidence of the incident, he could provide the authorities with better information to aid their investigation. “You know, better evidence, to get their faces, description of the vehicle and the license plate number,” he said, justifying his decision to film the thieves as they made their sloppy escape.

The Viral TikTok Video

Burrola’s actions did not go unnoticed. The former employee posted the footage of the incident on TikTok, where it quickly gained traction and was subsequently shared by the Arapahoe Sheriff’s Office. In the viral video, Burrola can be heard taunting the thieves as they struggle to load the stolen goods into their getaway car.

“Really, bro, you got to resort to this? The economy isn’t that bad,” Burrola quipped, as the three men hastily stuffed the laundry items into the back of a black Chevy Trax. The getaway driver eventually managed to hop in the driver’s seat, but his accomplices were slow at unloading the stolen products. When the other two finally closed the liftgate and clumsily hopped in the back, Burrola snatched off a tinfoil sheet that had been covering the rear license plate, revealing its numbers before the car sped off.

Suspension and Termination

Despite Burrola’s claims that he was simply following a direct order, his actions did not align with the company’s policies. King Soopers, a subsidiary of the Kroger Company, has a policy against chasing thieves or intervening in thefts. The following day, Burrola was suspended from the store, and a week later, he was informed of his termination.

Burrola expressed his shock and devastation at the decision, stating, “I was shocked and devastated when I was fired the next week.” He never physically confronted the suspects, instead opting to film them from a short distance. However, the company’s stance on the matter remained firm.

Kroger’s Response and Security Measures

In a statement to CBS Colorado, Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers, acknowledged the incident and defended its position. “We have security measures in place to help prevent crime and de-escalate such confrontations to minimize the risk to our associates,” the company said. While Kroger refrained from commenting on personnel matters, it emphasized its commitment to the safety of its employees.

The Importance of Burrola’s Video Evidence

Despite Burrola’s termination, his actions ultimately proved invaluable to the investigation. Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Detective Erik Vancleave praised Burrola’s quick thinking, stating that the employee’s video evidence was instrumental in apprehending the driver of the getaway vehicle.

“We would have caught that at some point, but without Santino’s video that he gave us and me being able to do a little cleaner investigation, it would have been a lot harder to do,” Vancleave said. “His video to us immensely helped this investigation. I was able, with other detectives … able to put the driver in custody, in jail within 24 hours.”

The Arrest of the Driver and the Search for Accomplices

Thanks to Burrola’s video evidence, the police were able to quickly identify the registered owner of the vehicle used in the theft. This led them to the driver, 32-year-old Jorge Pantoja, who was already in custody at the Adams County Detention Facility on unrelated felony charges. Pantoja was subsequently charged with theft and shoplifting.

The investigation is ongoing, as the authorities are still working to apprehend the other two suspects who were involved in the theft. “We’re still working on the other two. We should have that wrapped up hopefully by the end of next week,” Vancleave said.

Burrola’s Uncertain Future and Crowdfunding Efforts

Since his termination, Burrola has indicated that he is considering legal action, though he has not provided further details. “There’s a lot going on in the works that I’m not able to comment on at the moment, but yes, something along those lines,” he told Fox News.

In the meantime, Burrola’s family has created a GoFundMe campaign to help him recover his lost wages. The fundraiser states that Burrola was not given severance pay and was planning to move to Florida to be closer to his family, but his sudden job loss has put those plans on hold and caused him to fall behind on some of his bills.

The Broader Implications and Lessons Learned

The case of Santino Burrola has shed light on the complex and often challenging role of retail employees in dealing with theft and shoplifting. While companies may have policies in place to protect their workers, the line between compliance and personal initiative can sometimes become blurred.

This incident raises important questions about the balance between corporate policies, employee safety, and the pursuit of justice. It also highlights the potential value of employee-captured evidence in aiding law enforcement investigations, even if the actions that led to its creation were ultimately deemed unacceptable by the employer.

As the retail industry continues to grapple with the issue of shoplifting and theft, the Burrola case serves as a cautionary tale and a call for a more nuanced approach to addressing these challenges. Ultimately, it underscores the need for clear communication, comprehensive training, and a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by frontline workers in the ever-evolving landscape of the retail sector.

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