Lakeland police investigates shoplifter's death

Posted at 11:26 AM, Feb 10, 2016

The Lakeland Police Department is investigating the death of a shoplifter who died a short time after being detained.

According to investigators, Kenneth Wisham, 64, attempted to push a cart full of DVDs worth $380.74 out of the Walmart located on US Highway 98 N. early Sunday morning.

Inside the store, surveillance cameras caught Wisham trying to take the stolen merchandise out of the store.

"He's confronted by the employees. He's asked for a receipt and starts digging around his pockets and then takes off, so they give chase," Lakeland police spokesman Sgt. Gary Gross said.

While Wisham was running, his pants were falling down and he tripped. Police said that's when at least six store workers helped to hold onto him until police and EMS arrived.

"It does not appear there was any kind of confrontation. He's down on the ground and they described noticing he stopped breathing and they started CPR," Gross said.

But exactly what happened outside the store didn't get picked up on surveillance cameras.

Wisham died at the hospital 12 hours after the incident. The medical examiner has determined his death was not from medical causes, forcing police to investigate it as a possible homicide, which is protocol when someone dies while committing a crime.

"We want to find out based on the injuries that come out of the autopsy, how did they happen, and who is responsible, if anybody, for his death," said Gross.

Wisham's neighbors are stunned and saddened by it all.

"He'd come in here. We sit and chat. I feel sorry for his family, you know," said neighbor Michael Harrelson.

Wisham's funeral is planned for Friday night.

Walmart has responded to the incident with the following statement:

“Our condolences go out to the family. We are working with police as part of an ongoing investigation and performing a review of our own. All associates involved in this incident have been suspended pending the investigation as we continue to learn all of the details."