An 89-year-old Salvation Army Santa Claus, attempting to collect money for charity, was trampled to death yesterday as shoppers pushed their way through a Cleveland K-Mart’s doors on Black Friday.
Abraham T. Roosevelt has been dressing as Santa Claus for the past 30 years and had raised nearly $85,000 during that time span. But the World War II veteran’s life tragically ended when a stampede knocked over the Salvation Army’s famous red kettle that contains the change.
Customers then scurried for the nickels and pennies that fell out of Roosevelt’s bucket, and in the subsequent crush Roosevelt was killed. Tom Wilkinson witnessed the event and told local news reporters, “Man, they trampled him twice. There was change and blood flying all over the place.
“I know this time of year gets crazy but I ain’t never seen Santa Claus get killed over some pennies.”
K-Mart employees observed what happened to the old man and stepped in to attempt to save his life. Cindy Lawrence, a longtime employee, told The Cleveland Register, “I see Mr. Roosevelt every year. He served in the U.S. Army for every war we’ve ever had and these shoppers stomped all over him for some loose change. What is this world coming to?
“They were animals. We are trying to get a working wage and these shoppers are trying to save a few bucks on stuff they don’t need. To think Santa Claus lost his life today is disheartening.”
The shoppers themselves disagree with that assessment, and say that their behavior was justified.
“Sure, I think it’s kinda sad,” says Lucy Robinson, one of the people who trampled the gentleman to death. “I know he helped fight Hitler and ended the Holocaust or whatever. But you know what? I think his death is a small price to pay.
“My son is going to be able to play ‘Grand Theft Auto 5′ this Christmas. I used that change to buy him the game. This guy was going to die soon anyway. In the end, I feel like this is what he would have wanted. ”
A spokesman for the Salvation Army said in a statement: “In our 150 year history, we have never seen something like this before. That includes World War One, Two, the Plague, and the famous candy cane shortage of 1969.
“We will be reviewing our safety guidelines and recommend all Santa Clauses wield a weapon for self defense. Meanwhile, people need to look at themselves in the mirror and think ‘Maybe I should should just buy this stuff online. A lot less death this way.’ ”
Similar tragedies were reported in Pittsburgh, Portland, Tampa, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Phoenix, Orlando, Denver, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, San Diego, Lewiston and Philadelphia.
Roosevelt leaves behind a wife, three daughters, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and one pet parakeet named Rosie.