An off-duty Walmart employee is accused of killing a good Samaritan who stepped in between him and another Walmart employee during a dispute, Florida law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Tironie Sterling, 22, allegedly went to the Fort Lauderdale Walmart where he worked in order to meet with a female colleague on Tuesday afternoon. The two got into an argument that escalated into a physical fight.
A male customer who witnessed the fight came to the woman’s aid, but Sterling pulled out a gun and shot the man several times in the chest, back and lower extremities, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.
The victim was airlifted to a local hospital but later died of his injuries. His name has not been officially released by police.
Sterling fled the store after the shooting, but was arrested hours later, investigators said.
He has been charged with first-degree murder and is currently behind bars awaiting trial. He was denied bail.
The male customer who died was identified separately by his girlfriend and his cousin as Thierry Bastien, 41, in interviews with NBC6 and 7News Miami.
Bastien’s girlfriend Makia Ford was with him that day in the Walmart, along with their four-month-old baby, and witnessed his final moments.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget for the rest of my life, as long as I live,” Ford said. “I laid on the side of him, I tried to tell him, ‘Stay with me.’”
Ford said Bastien stepped in to break up the fight between the two employees when things got physical.
“The guy threw the (girl) on the floor, and he started pounding on the girl, so (Bastien) ran off to go help the girl,” Ford said, “but as he was running off, I pulled him back and I told him, ‘Don’t go,’ and he turned around at me and said, ‘I’m just going to go help.’”
While trying to break up the fight, Bastien was shot multiple times. Detectives later found 10 spent bullet casings at the scene.
“It’s a different feeling when you watch it happen in front of you, especially with a baby in your hand,” Ford said. “It’s difficult dealing with all of that, and it’s difficult watching it, and you can’t do nothing about it.”
Ford said her boyfriend was “all about his family,” and loved spending time with his kids.
“He went out a hero,” she said, adding that she plans to tell their son about what a good man Bastien was when the four-month-old grows up.
Bastien’s cousin told NBC6 that the 41-year-old was “really dedicated to family, he was a good person. He had a really good heart.”
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She said it didn’t surprise her that Bastien stepped up to help another person in need.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for Bastien’s funeral expenses and support his family.
“Thierry had a big heart and because of that heart he could never just walk past the injustice that was shown on May 2, 2023,” the page reads, adding that Bastien was a “devoted father” who was “taken too soon.”
The campaign has so far raised just over US$12,000.
“Senseless violence like this is intolerable, and we’re heartbroken the customer who intervened in an apparent attack on one of our associates has died from his injuries,” Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said in a statement. “We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family during this difficult time and will continue working with our associates, providing support as needed.”
He said Sterling has been suspended and “steps are underway to terminate his employment.”
— With files from The Associated Press
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