Academy Sports Fires Manager Who Stopped Gun Thief
Tallahassee, FL – The manager of a sporting goods chain store was fired after he tackled a suspect who had stolen a handgun and threatened to shoot people.
Dean Crouch, 32, was the store manager at Academy Sports when he stopped 24-year-old Jason White from getting away with a .40-caliber pistol he had just stolen from the store’s firearms counter on June 29, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
"My employee yelled stop that man," Crouch told WCTV. "I turned and looked and saw Mr. White running from the gun bar toward the front of the store with a firearm in his hand. At the front door is where I stopped him. I tackled him to the ground. We apprehended him, um, and detained him. We secured the firearm."
But Academy has a policy against touching customers, even if the employee was doing so to protect others.
Crouch said he was initially suspended for a week, and then fired via a conference call on July 10, WCTV reported.
The incident that resulted in his firing actually began hours before White stepped into Academy Sports.
Tallahassee police said White was accused of stealing two handguns from Cash America Pawn on South Adams Street earlier in the day, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Later, at Academy Sports, White asked to look at a Glock handgun from the locked display counter, according to WCTV.
When the employee handed him the gun, White grabbed it and then started to make a run for the exit.
According to court records, Crouch saw what had happened and heard the employee’s yell for assistance. He subdued White at the exit.
Arrest paperwork filed with the Leon County Clerk said Crouch “ran after him, making contact (tackling him) just past the first doors.” The gun flew out of White’s hand when he was tackled, WCTV reported.
Once White was captured, they recovered the gun, a stolen backpack, five boxes of ammunition, and two magazines for the Glock.
White was taken into the store’s office to wait for police to arrive after being apprehended. While there, he admitted to stealing the gun and threatened to shoot people, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I stole and I admit to it,” White told officers, according to the Tallahassee Police Department’s incident report. "I will steal again when I get out of jail.”
Court records showed that White claimed he and his family were being threatened by someone, and he wanted the gun to “kill him.” He told police to watch for him on the evening news, WCTV reported.
“Just you wait and see,” White said, according to WCTV.
Crouch's actions probably saved that person's life.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) called Crouch’s firing "insanity.”
“This man is a hero," NRA Spokesperson Marion Hammer told WCTV. "He stopped an initial crime that would have led to other crimes, and he gets fired. How on earth is that right?"
Crouch’s attorney, Ryan Hobbs, told The Tallahassee Democrat that his client was considering a lawsuit against Academy Sports for wrongful termination.
“Academy has decided to, instead of treating him like the hero he is, they terminated his employment effective immediately because he put his hands on Mr. White,” Hobbs said.
The former store manager and married father of two small children said he has sent the company an email asking them to reconsider his termination.
"Our world is pretty much turned upside down after this," Crouch said. "We had to put our house on the market because of this."
Crouch said he has received several job offers in the wake of the incident, but he said he loved his job at Academy Sports and wanted it back.
“This is not something that happens for Mr. Crouch in his everyday life,” Hobbs told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I think he was thinking there is a man running out of the store with a gun in his hand with his coworkers following from the firearm area screaming ‘Stop that man.’ Something had to be done and he was the one that was going to do it.”
Academy Sports spokeswoman Elise Hasbrook said she could not comment on specific personnel matters.
“While the incident ended without injury, actions inconsistent with corporate policies were taken,” Hasbrook said. “We addressed the matter with the local store and individuals involved.”
Court records showed that White was released from jail on bond on July 6 on a “Supervised Mental Health Pre-Trial Release.”
The court also ordered him to stay away from Academy Sports and Cash America Pawn, WCTV reported.