Exclusive: Off-duty officer out with wife and kids threatened by felon outside Walmart, all caught on camera

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LEXINGTON, NC – Earlier in July, an off-duty police officer, who was with his wife and children at a Walmart in Lexington, was approached and threatened by a 36-year-old male with an extensive criminal history.

The suspect reportedly became inexplicably hostile toward the off-duty officer while his wife and children sat in the vehicle in the parking lot.

Luckily, after a tense confrontation where the off-duty officer had to draw his weapon, the suspect seemingly ceased being hostile and them became strangely amicable – but was still arrested once local police arrived on scene.

We at Law Enforcement Today had an opportunity to speak with the officer who found himself in this strange and dangerous situation. Out of respect for the officer, we have decided not to share his name and respective agency.

According to the then-off-duty officer, the incident occurred at the parking lot of a Walmart in Lexington during the afternoon of July 24th. He had just parked his vehicle, where his wife and three children were inside of, when a man started briskly walking in his direction.

The officer said that the man, later identified as 36-year-old Joseph Albert Herbert, looked “rough” and possibly homeless, and he figured he was going to be asked for some money by the individual. However, that is not what occurred at all – with Herbert reportedly accusing the off-duty officer of insulting him:

“He gets a little closer than normal panhandlers – couple feet away – and he looks at me and he says, ‘Why’d you say that to me?’ And I’m like ‘Excuse me?’ And he goes ‘Why’d you say that to me?’ And I said, ‘I didn’t say anything to you.’ And he goes ‘Yes you did, why’d you say that to me?’”

This back-and-forth interaction goes on, with the officer explicitly telling Herbert that he has no idea who he is and that he didn’t say anything to him. Yet, Herbert reportedly became more aggressive during the interaction, telling the officer that he “knows him”, leading the officer to ponder whether he had arrested him before sometime in the past.

The off-duty officer noticed that the suspect had his hands in his pocket, with something bulging in the pocket that he couldn’t tell if it were some kind of weapon. At this point, the off-duty officer drew down on the suspect and was telling him to “back off”:

“I drew my gun, and I tell him ‘Back off’, and then he says he’s going to hurt me. He then takes his hands out of his pockets. I’m expecting to see a weapon, as I’d seen a bulge in his pants…but he took his hands out and put them to his sides and clenched both of his fists and he says, ‘You’re going to have to shoot me.’”

The officer said that once he realized how unpredictable the suspect was, his main goal was to get him away from the vehicle where his wife and kids were inside of as this was transpiring:

“I knew I had to get him away from my wife and kids, because I don’t know who he is, what he’s doing or what is his deal. I got to the back of my van, and he’s following me, and I’m telling him ‘You need to back up, I’m a police officer.’

And he goes, ‘I don’t care who you are – I know who you are, and you know who I am. You’re going to have to kill me. Shoot me, shoot me – I’m going to whip your ass.’”

A bystander nearby as the incident was unfolding captured a portion of the incident on camera, where the off-duty officer can be heard yelling at the suspect to back away from him.

While this is unfolding, the officer’s wife had called 911 and informed local police of the situation that was transpiring.

Then, without rhyme or reason, the off-duty officer said that the suspect suddenly stopped being hostile:

“He stopped, and then he said ‘Man, I just can’t keep this up anymore – I just can’t do it anymore. Good, you did a good job’ and then he just claps his hands, and he walks past me and he says ‘God bless y’all’ and then he starts walking toward the store.”

After the suspect started walking away, the off-duty officer said he holstered his weapon and started walking up to where the suspect was headed and started talking with him about the incident:

“I asked him ‘You said hey, you know me, what’s your name?’ And he gave me his name, his government name, repeated it several times. He even took out his ID and handed it to me. I told him ‘Hey man, PD is on it’s way and we’re going to have to hang out and deal with this.’

He complied, we waited, and PD got there. They ended up detaining him and charging him with communicating threats.”

Apparently, Herbert has quite the rapsheet, with previous arrests ranging from breaking and entering, assault by strangulation, and domestic criminal trespass.

When speculating on the entire scenario, from the suspect going from extremely hostile to suddenly becoming calm and giving his name and waiting for police to come arrest him, the officer described the incident as “bizarre” and unlike anything he’s ever seen:

“I thought he was B.S.ing me at first when he gave me his name, but sure enough, he handed me his ID. It was a real bizarre encounter. I can say, in my entire career, I’ve done some interesting stuff – I’ve done a lot of things in police work…and I’ve never encountered anything like this.”

The officer’s takeaway from the incident was that even when one prepares for some potential hostile encounter while off-duty, it is still jarring when it actually happens – and is even more impactful on one’s family who isn’t accustomed to incidents like these that police encounter while on-duty:

“I’ve been a cop for 24 years, and you never think that kind of stuff can happen. You always plan for it, you know, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen when you’re with your wife and three kids – and the impact that it has on them.”

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In other cases that involve incidents transpiring at a Walmart, we at Law Enforcement Today reported on the attack a 70-year-old woman suffered that was allegedly launched by a Walmart employee in Wisconsin. 

Here’s that previous report from earlier in July. 

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MOUNT PLEASANT, WI – Police arrested a 17-year-old Walmart employee earlier in July for allegedly beating a 70-year-old woman after the victim complained to the employee’s manager about an interaction they had with the suspect inside of the store.

According to the victim, store employees apparently already knew that the suspect had a temper that could lead to violent outbursts prior to the attack.

On July 7th, 70-year-old P.K. Shader went to the Walmart located off of Oakes Road and Durand Avenue. During her trip, Shader had gotten into some sort of verbal dispute with an employee, identified as 17-year-old Jazareia Velasquez.

Shader had asked to speak with Velasquez’s manager, which Shader said that the manager was relatively unhelpful and even witnessed Velasquez and her during portions of their negative interaction:

“The manager was right there watching the interaction. She [Velasquez] left and I looked at the manager and I said do you let her talk to all your customers like that? I didn’t get a reply. As I was leaving, I thought I really want to know what her name is because I want to send it to corporate.”

Apparently, Shader didn’t see a nametag on Velasquez, so she went to go take a picture of her so that she could have a means to identify the employee when contacting corporate. However, Shader attempting to snap a photo of Velasquez apparently set the suspect off:

“She went crazy she flew and she punched me fist right here, over and over again.”

When the Mount Pleasant Police Department arrived on the scene of the incident, officers were said to have reviewed surveillance footage from the Walmart that showed Velasquez attacking the Shader as she was holding up her phone as if to take a picture.

While reports indicate that an unnamed employee eventually intervened and got Velasquez off of Shader, the victim noted her shock over the lack of people coming in to help her when she was initially attacked.

Another aspect that concerns Shader is that, according to her, other employees knew that Velasquez was a “loose cannon” and yet she was allowed to remain working there with other knowing her propensity to lash out:

“What if it was your grandmother, what if it was your mother? The managers knew she was a loose cannon. The first manager said nothing. The second one told me. So why did they keep an employee like that? That’s a bigger problem than not having security.”

Shader hopes that this incident perhaps motivates others to step in when they see others being harmed or mistreated:

“I just want to tell people, pull out your phone, give somebody a break. No one’s asking you to dive in and be hurt but pull out your phone and document it and yell and call the police.”

Velasquez has since been charged with aggravated battery to an elderly person and disorderly conduct, which she has her next court appearance scheduled for July 15th.

Walmart has released a statement regarding the incident, noting that the suspect has been “suspended” from her job:

“We want all of our customers to have a pleasant shopping experience in our stores. The associate involved has been suspended, and we continue to assist law enforcement in the ongoing investigation.”

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