A temporary Wal-Mart worker died after a throng of unruly shoppers broke down the doors and trampled him moments after the Long Island store opened early Friday for day-after-Thanksgiving bargain hunting, police said.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., closed the store in Valley Stream for several hours after the stampede. It reopened shortly after 1 p.m.
Wal-Mart representative Dan Fogleman called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the victim came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.
"The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," Fogleman said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this difficult time. At this point, facts are still being assembled and we are working closely with the Nassau County Police as they investigate what occurred."
Jdimytai Damou, 34, of Queens, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., Nassau County police said. The exact cause of death had not been determined.
A 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to a hospital for observation and she and the unborn baby were reported to be OK, said Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a Nassau County police spokesman. At least three other people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, police said.
Police said about 2,000 people had gathered outside the doors before the Wal-Mart opened at the suburban location about 20 miles east of Manhattan. A crowd knocked the man to the ground at 5:03 a.m., three minutes after the store opened, leaving a metal portion of the door crumpled like an accordion.
Nassau County police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming described the scene as "utter chaos." ''This crowd was out of control," he said.
Criminal charges were possible in the case, but Fleming said it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers. Authorities were reviewing surveillance video.
The industry's largest retail group said the incident was rare.
"We are not aware of any other circumstances where a retail employee has died working on the day after Thanksgiving," said Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman at National Retail Federation.
Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day when stores broke into profitability for the full year.
Many stores open early and stay open late. The Valley Stream Wal-Mart usually opens at 9 a.m.
Items on sale at the Wal-Mart store included a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.