Jim Tinney saw three men trying to run out of the store carrying tool sets last month. He said he reacted on reflex and threw a paint roller extension toward one shoplifter's feet. The shoplifters weren't hurt and got away.
"In the Army, they train you to do things like that," Tinney said. "I just automatically went like this and threw the stick at their feet."
Tinney said he thought it was over until two weeks later when he was fired. He admits his training at the store was clear - he should not confront shoplifters.
Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for the company, said the policy is in place for everyone's safety. He described dangerous encounters that have stemmed from employees disregarding policy to confront shoplifting suspects.
Tinney understands that he violated policy, but he believes the punishment doesn't fit.
"I think they could have written me up, reprimanded me, but terminate me? That's pretty strong," he said. "I'm 70 years old. I need to work. I needed that job. I enjoyed working with customers figuring out what they wanted to do. It's fun."
It's a tough lesson for a man who has been around the world serving his country that serving the company he works for might mean holding off on what seems like a good deed.
Statement from Stephen Holmes, director of corporate communications at The Home Depot:
"What I can tell you now is that we have a strict policy that only our trained security personnel can pursue and engage shoplifters. We've had deaths and serious injury over the years, and no amount of merchandise is more important than the safety of our associates and customers.
Last week, we had an associate bitten. We've had stabbings, another associate with serious brain damage, and it goes on from there. In fact, in just the past 24 hours we've had two shoplifters pull guns at two different stores at both ends of the country. So you can see, it's a very serious safety risk to everyone, even when it doesn't appear to be."
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