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No charges in death of Corey Stingley at West Allis store

Customers restrained youth in 2012

Classmates, family members and the community gather to remember Corey Stingley.

Classmates, family members and the community gather to remember Corey Stingley. Photo By Michael McLoone

Jan. 10, 2014

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced late Friday that no criminal charges would be filed in the death more than a year ago of a West Allis teenager after he was held down by customers at a convenience store where he had been suspected of shoplifting.

Corey Stingley, 16, died after the encounter at VJ's Food Mart, 9206 W. Schlinger Ave., West Allis, on Dec. 14, 2012. Three men were arrested but released, and authorities began a long investigation that included a secret John Doe hearing last summer.

Chisholm's news release said Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel Konkol, who presided at the John Doe, authorized lifting a secrecy order and the release of the findings that Chisholm's office had made. Chisholm also stated that Konkol agreed with the prosecution's decision that no criminal charges were warranted.

An autopsy found Stingley died of positional asphyxia, or a lack of oxygen, that led to brain damage and death.

Prosecutors concluded that the three customers had no intent to harm Stingley when they restrained him, nor did they believe there was sufficient evidence that any of the three was aware that their actions created a substantial and unreasonable risk of great bodily harm.

To be guilty of criminally reckless conduct, the men would have to be aware of the risk, and because none was trained in the use of forcible restraint, they did not know that certain maneuvers against Stingley carried such risk.

Rodney Cubbie, a lawyer who had been advising Stingley's father, Craig Stingley, said Stingley will not agree with Chisholm's decision but won't be surprised. He said he did not know whether Craig Stingley, who could not immediately be reached for comment, was considering a civil suit over his son's death.

Jonathan Smith, a lawyer representing one of the customers, said he agreed with the decision, while recognizing "it's been a tragedy. There's certainly no cause of celebration."

"My client's heart goes out to Mr. Stingley's father, who is dealing with a loss that nobody should ever have to deal with," said Anthony Cotton, a lawyer representing another of the customers. "This has been a traumatic experience for everyone, but more particularly for Mr. Stingley's father, who has lost a son that he loved very much."

Jonathan LaVoy, the lawyer representing the third customer, said his client is "happy the DA's office made this decision and it's over, at least to the criminal liability." LaVoy credited Chisholm's office for spending so much time and effort to review all details of the incident.

"They did their jobs," LaVoy said. "Sometimes tragedies are not crimes."

Confronted over alcohol

According to Chisholm's findings:

Stingley, a student at West Allis Hale High School, entered the store about 4 p.m. and asked clerk Chiry Patel where to find the Monster drinks. Patel said he saw Stingley, via security monitor, put alcohol into his backpack.

When Stingley came to check out and presented only the Monster drinks, Patel told him, "Give me my bottles back or should I call the police." Stingley put his backpack on the counter, and as Patel tried to remove the bottles, Stingley grabbed for his debit card, which he had handed to Patel, then ran for the door.

Jesse Cole, a customer, tried to stop Stingley, who then punched Cole, leaving a badly injured eye area, according to LaVoy, Cole's attorney. The two other customers, Robert Berringer and Mario Lauman, then grabbed Stingley and held him on the floor. Stingley was in a seated position with his back being pushed down to his knees. Police arrived about five minutes later.

When West Allis officer Tieranie Marchant arrived, she saw all three customers restraining Stingley. She handcuffed Stingley, but when he wouldn't get up, she put him on his back and noticed he had foam at his mouth. When she saw he had no pulse, she removed the handcuffs and with another officer began CPR.

Stingley was taken by ambulance to a hospital but never regained consciousness. He was kept on life support until Dec. 29, 2012.

Cole told police that after being punched, he helped pull Stingley down and briefly had him in a headlock. Lauman said he put his 230 pounds on Stingley's shoulder, arm and waist. Lauman said Stingley struggled for the first two or three minutes then stopped.

A witness who walked up to the store said he saw Berringer holding Stingley in a headlock, but Berringer told police he never used a headlock, just held Stingley's head. At the John Doe, the arriving customer backed off his statement that the three men were "squeezing the hell" out of Stingley.

Another man just outside the store told investigators that Lauman had Stingley in a chokehold, and that Berringer was bending Stingley over and said, "You don't do that, we are a neighborhood around here." Berringer lives next to the store.

Cole, Lauman and Berringer were all at the store independently. They declined to testify at the John Doe.

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