GRAHAM, Wash. - A silent statement made by some Safeway employees has a lot of people talking in Pierce County, including Cynthia Fajardo, the President of the Pierce County Sheriff Independent Guild.
"The word that is used most is disgust," said Fajardo.
The union first received a phone call from the wife of a deputy who saw a Safeway employee wearing a button on their uniform that read, "Justice for Ron Hillstrom: Stop Police Brutality."
"Here's the place that she normally shops, and now she had to deal with this accusation against people that she knows and her husband works with," explained Fajardo.
The accusations started after an incident on Sunday, May 11, that involved Ron Hillstrom in a University Place apartment complex parking lot. The Pierce County Sheriff's office said Hillstrom had been acting in a threatening manner and reportedly had a screwdriver in his hand. Deputies tased him. Hillstrom later died at the hospital.
A Facebook page started by Hillstrom's friends claims he was not only tased, but beaten by deputies that night, causing his death.
The Medical Examiner's office listed Hillstrom's cause of death as Cardiac Dysrhythmia. Other significant conditions that contributed to his death are listed as cocaine use, excited delirium, enlarged heart, and restraint and rib fractures. The Sheriff's department and County Prosecutor are conducting investigations into the incident.
Fajardo said the investigations are still in the early stages, and people should not label it a case of police brutality.
"We ask that they wait until all the facts are known before they make an accusation that is that horrific," said Fajardo.
Fajardo added that at least a dozen people complained to Safeway's corporate office.
In a statement, Safeway spokesperson Teena Massingill wrote:
"We apologize to anyone who was offended. Some store employees wore the buttons without permission from the store manager. As soon as the situation came to his attention, employees were instructed to immediately stop wearing the buttons."