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Guard Charged in Store Death

July 7, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ A private security guard has been charged in a black man’s shopping mall death that protesters suggest had racial overtones.

Dennis Richardson, 29, was charged with involuntary manslaughter Thursday, a day after an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 protesters led by the Rev. Al Sharpton rallied outside the Lord & Taylor department store at Fairlane Town Center in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

Richardson, who also is black, is accused in the death of Frederick Finley, 32, of Detroit.

The manslaughter count carries a possible 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine. Richardson was expected to be arraigned Friday.

Activists who organized the Wednesday protest accused Lord & Taylor of having black security workers scrutinize minority shoppers to avoid the appearance of discrimination or racial profiling. A spokeswoman for the store has declined to comment.

Finley was in the store with friends and family when surveillance cameras allegedly recorded some members of the group shoplifting. Finley’s 11-year-old stepdaughter removed from a store counter a bracelet and left the store without paying for it, prosecutors said.

Outside, security workers tried to question the girl before Finley intervened, prosecutors said. During an ensuing confrontation with Finley, prosecutors said, Richardson used a neck hold to subdue him, ultimately causing his death.

``Under all the circumstances, the duration and amount of force used by Richardson was excessive, and probable cause clearly exists″ for the involuntary manslaughter count, prosecutor John D. O’Hair said.

Richardson could not be located for comment; his telephone number is unlisted and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing Finley’s family in a $600 million lawsuit against the store’s parent company, May Department Stores, disputed reports suggesting the family had been shoplifting.

He said that the young girl mistakenly left the store with a $4 bracelet and that the Finleys would have paid for the bracelet had they been nicely approached about it.

He said five security workers, four of whom are black, did not identify themselves when they confronted the family.

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