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A clip of security camera footage from inside Arcata’s Wildberries Marketplace — a fuzzy version of which was posted to Reddit this morning — shows a prolonged physical struggle between the store’s general manager, Aaron Gottschalk, and a teenage girl who was suspected of shoplifting.
The video, captured shortly after 9 a.m. on September 30, shows Gottschalk pursuing the girl and reaching out as she attempts to leave the store. After the two momentarily disappear from the frame, Gottschalk can be seen pulling the girl back inside by her backpack.
As the girl tries to free herself, Gottschalk pins her against a wall by her wrists before apparently yanking her into a row of nested shopping carts. From there he appears to pull her by the backpack’s shoulder straps and then push her to the ground, where he again pins her arms as she continues to resist.
About three minutes into the video, an officer from the Arcata Police Department arrives, handcuffs the girl and escorts her out of the store.
Reached by phone this morning, Gottschalk read the following statement:
This was a serial shoplifting incident that happened some months ago. They were detained until police arrived at which point it was determined they were a minor. The issue of use of force was handled internally. We have no further comment at this time.
The video was posted anonymously to the r/Humboldt subreddit with the headline, “Manager of store violently assaults minor in broad daylight for stealing a small bottle of milk under $10.”
California law includes a provision — known colloquially as “shopkeeper’s privilege” — that allows merchants to physically detain a customer if they have probably cause to believe the person is guilty of shoplifting, though the law says the detention must be used solely for the purpose of investigating the suspected shoplifting offense and must be for a reasonable time.
The girl’s mother, interviewed by the Outpost back in October, said she believes Gottschalk’s actions qualify as an assault on her daughter, who had turned 16 not long before the incident occurred.
“He did not have to put his hands on my kid,” she said. “I’m not okay with that at all. Like whatsoever. … That makes me mad.”
The Arcata Police Department confirmed that an officer responded to the scene and detained the teenager, as documented in the call log for that day, but no one pressed charges at the time, and the girl was released and sent back to class.
The mom, who we’re keeping anonymous to protect the identity of her daughter, acknowledged that her daughter was shoplifting but said that doesn’t justify the way Gottschalk treated her. She added that the other girl visible in the video is her niece, also a minor, who came to her defense during the altercation.
She told the Outpost at the time that she was considering pressing charges or filing a lawsuit, but she has not responded to follow-up attempts to reach her.