ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The attorney for a 25-year-old schizophrenic man who went into Kmart on Tuesday – possibly to shoplift – says the man didn’t have any physical medical issues and would have left the chain store alive had loss prevention officers not tried to detain him.
The Office of the Medical Investigator has not released their findings on Jonathan Sorensen’s cause of death, but police said he was being restrained by loss prevention officers when he died. They said the death was from a “medical episode or medical distress,” which could include asphyxiation but also could have been related to an underlying medical condition.
Witnesses who were in the store at Carlisle and Indian School NE during the incident told the Journal they saw Sorensen pinned facedown on the ground by two loss prevention officers. A third joined soon after.
Sorensen apologized and then said he was scared, according to the witnesses, and that’s the last thing he said.
At a news conference at his northeast Albuquerque office, attorney George Anthony Bleus repeatedly said Sorensen should have left the store alive – whether he was shoplifting or not.
“People’s lives are more valuable than products,” Bleus said. “Loss prevention should never involve loss of life or limb, ever.”
The case is being investigated as a homicide, according to Albuquerque police spokesman Tanner Tixier. No charges had been filed against the loss prevention officers as of Thursday evening.
A woman who answered the phone at Kmart on Thursday said her manager wouldn’t comment, and she would not provide his name.
Sorensen’s caretaker and family friend Ilena Estrella said Sorensen was a junior at the University of New Mexico when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He stopped attending the university but was trying to get more stable mentally so he could return.
Bleus said Sorensen was clearly mentally ill and should have been treated with more care.
Online state court records show he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal trespassing last month, but those records show he has no other serious criminal history in New Mexico.
Bleus said he is waiting for the outcome of the police investigation before determining whether to file a lawsuit against Kmart.