Erwin Lingitz sues after he's arrested for allegedly stealing free samples from Cub Foods

Cub Foods claims Lingitz violated unwritten free sample etiquette rules.
Cub Foods claims Lingitz violated unwritten free sample etiquette rules.

Nearly three years after he was roughed up and arrested for allegedly swiping free samples from the White Bear Township Cub Foods, 68-year-old Erwin Lingitz has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $375,000 in damages.

SEE ALSO: Camera unlawfully taken by Ramsey County deputy: "If I end up on YouTube, I'm going to be upset" [VIDEO]

The April 2010 incident began when Lingitz tried to walk out of the Cub store with nearly a pound and a half of deli meat samples he says were given to him by an employee. But a security guard thought he was shoplifting and called police.

The Star Tribune provides background on Lingitz's allegations:

[Lingitz] alleges that he was jumped, kicked and beaten by three Ramsey County deputies and a Cub Foods security guard after he tried to leave the grocery store with free food samples for his wife, who was waiting in their car.

According to claims in the suit, workers at the White Bear Lake store on April 24, 2010, had told Erwin Lingitz he could take the samples out. But when he left the store, a store security guard confronted him and ignored his protests that he had done nothing wrong. He was taken to the Ramsey County jail, where he was denied medication, the suit says. A surveillance videotape of the incident was erased, the suit claims.

The suit names eight defendants: Ramsey County, the county Sheriff's Office, three deputies, the guard, the guard's employer, Twin City Lawmen Inc., and Supervalu Inc., which owns Cub Foods. It is seeking a minimum of $375,000 in damages stemming from civil rights violations, use of excessive force, negligence and denial of medical care...

As he left the store, [Lingitz says] he was confronted by the guard, who accused him of shoplifting and pinned him against a stack of water softener salt as Lingitz yelled for help. The suit claims that Lingitz was cooperative but that deputies overreacted after they arrived, slamming Lingitz into the sidewalk as they tried to handcuff him, kicking him in the head and ribs.

A photo accompanying the suit shows Lingitz with two blackened eyes, a gashed nose and a bruised head.

Lingitz was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting and disorderly conduct, but the charges were ultimately dropped.

Charges or not, the security guard and Supervalu officials say they handled the incident properly. From the Pioneer Press:

A supermarket security guard feared a man was shoplifting after seeing him fill two produce bags with free samples, a spokesman for the White Bear Township grocery store said.

Erwin Lingitz, a retiree living in Gem Lake, had taken more than a pound of lunchmeat from an unattended sample table at the Cub Foods, thereby violating "societal norms" involving how many free samples a person should take, said Mike Siemienas, a spokesman for the company that owns the grocery chain.

"A reasonable person would not fill two produce bags with 1.4 pounds of deli meat samples to take out of the store," said Siemienas, of Supervalu Inc. "The plaintiff violated societal norms and common customer understanding regarding free sample practices."...

"We will aggressively defend ourselves against this complaint," Siemienas said.

Lingitz hasn't publicly commented on the lawsuit, but his wife, Frankie Lingitz, told the PiPress that "something is either free or it isn't," adding, "You can't arrest somebody for thievery if it is free."

Lingitz's Cub Foods ordeal sounds like something out of a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, doesn't it?

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