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Circle K clerk who worked at store 18 years sues after firing for touching shoplifter who stole cigarettes

A Colorado Circle K employee is suing the company after she was fired for putting her hands on an armed thief who snatched a pack of cigarettes from behind the counter.

Mary Ann Moreno, 75, claims in her lawsuit against Circle K Stores Inc. that she was wrongfully terminated from the Westminster store she had worked at for 18 years over her brief interaction with the criminal.

“I really did not think I would get fired for something like that. [Maybe] If I had chased him out the door or, you know, argued with him,” she told KDVR.

On Oct. 4, 2020, Moreno was behind the counter when Tyler Wimmer walked into the convenience store with a knife in one hand and a sealed package in the other that also contained a knife.

It’s not clear in surveillance footage obtained by KDVR whether he ever threatened Moreno with the knife, but Wimmer did ask if she would give him a pack of cigarettes for free.

Moreno declined, telling him she would get fired if she did.

Mary Ann Moreno, 75
Mary Ann Moreno, 75, was fired from a Colorado Circle K after she touched a shoplifter as he stole a pack of cigarettes.
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Moment clerk touches thief stealing cigarettes.
Moreno claims she was fired for briefly touching the thief when he stole a pack of cigarettes from the store in October 2020.
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Wimmer starts to walk toward the door but suddenly turns around, walks right past Moreno, and grabs a pack from behind the counter, video shows.

Moreno grabs his arm trying to stop him but then backs off, according to the footage.

“I, like, freaked out, you know? And I just went like that,” she said, motioning like she’s pushing Wimmer away from her.

Tyler Wimmer at Circle K in 2020
The shoplifter, Tyler Wimmer, was later arrested and pleaded guilty to robbery and other charges from separate cases.
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“Well, supposedly, I guess I grabbed his arm. I don’t remember that, but I push him, and that’s when he ran out.”

Wimmer can be seen on camera walking around outside the store after the theft.

Moreno said she immediately called her manager and 911.

surveillance footage of shoplifting
Moreno’s attorney says she had a natural human reaction to the altercation and acted in self-defense.
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Another customer who was in the store at the time, Larry Wagner, had already called the police after seeing Wimmer with the knife.

He suspected that Wimmer might have been on drugs based on his demeanor.

“He was scary. And like I said, I wish I would have stayed in the store for Mary’s sake, but I didn’t. But I was like, I need to go call 911,” Wagner told KDVR.

Moreno never received a termination letter from Circle K, but was told days after the incident that she had been fired for violating the company’s “Don’t Chase or Confront Policy” regarding shoplifters and robbers.

Circle K declined the outlet’s request for comment on pending litigation.

The sudden firing left Moreno incredulous.

Moreno’s attorney, Iris Halpern, said the footage clearly shows that Moreno acted naturally in self-defense.

Halpern said that firing Moreno for an interaction in which she made no real effort to stop or chase Wimmer is wrong.

“Companies have not sufficiently thought through the nuance in these situations, and any normal person is going to respond by pushing an attacker away from them,” Halpern said.

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