Death of shoplifting suspect chased by Walmart workers ruled homicide

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A shoplifting suspect who died after he was chased by Lakeland Walmart employees, died as a result of a homicide and not a medical condition, according to a Polk County Medical Examiner.

Detectives with the Lakeland Police Department are investigating the death of Kenneth E. Wisham, age 64.

Wisham died at Lakeland Regional Health after being transported there in critical condition on Feb. 7.

Kenneth E. Wisham, previous booking photo from Polk County Jail
Kenneth E. Wisham, previous booking photo from Polk County Jail


At 3:05 a.m. on Feb. 7, police responded to a call about a suspected shoplifter in custody outside of the Walmart located at 5800 N. Rd. 98. While on their way to the Walmart, police received another call from dispatchers saying the suspect was not breathing and CPR was being performed on him by Walmart employees.

Police arrived and began peforming CPR on Wisham until EMS crews arrived. EMS crews continued CPR and transported Wisham to the hospital.

Investigators say Wisham had tried to steal $380.74 worth of DVDs by putting them into a shopping cart. He was confronted by Walmart employees when he tried to leave the store. Wisham ran off and the employees chased him.

Police say that during the chase, Wisham kept pulling his pants up because they were falling down. At some point, Wisham fell to the ground and was detained by Walmart employees.

The Walmart employees then discovered Wisham was not breathing and started CPR.

The Lakeland Police Department says its Violent Crimes Unit will investigate Wisham’s death as a homicide because Wisham died during the commission of a crime.

Walmart suspended the employees involved and released the following statement on Wednesday:

“Our condolences go out to the family. We are working with police as part of an ongoing investigation and performing a review of our own. All associates involved in this incident have been suspended pending the investigation as we continue to learn all of the details.”

Detectives are asking any witnesses to come forward. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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