The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will not charge four grocery store security guards in the October death of a 65-year-old Scottsdale retiree being detained for shoplifting.
Lawrence Melsky died of head injuries Oct. 7, two days after being detained and handcuffed by the four guards on suspicion of shoplifting bread and ice cream at a Fry’s grocery store at 10450 N. 90th St.
County Attorney Richard Romley said the evidence did not support criminal charges. Melsky's family filed a wrongful-death suit against Fry’s and the four guards in November in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Scottsdale police said they believe the retired insurance broker's death was caused by his struggling with the guards after being handcuffed and led into a narrow hallway at the front of the store.
"As the lead investigator on the case, I believe the facts will show that Mr. Melsky's death was solely a result of injuries sustained by his own actions and not by actions of the security personnel," detective Dean Perna wrote to Romley's office. "The facts lead me to believe that Mr. Melsky's death was an unfortunate accident."
The Maricopa County Forensic Science Center said in December that the injuries were consistent with an accidental fall.
Neither Fry's representatives nor the grocery chain's attorney could be reached for comment.
Melsky's daughter, Rhona Melsky, sobbed when she heard the news Wednesday.
"I don't feel justice has been done at all here," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Bayonne, N.J.
Family attorney Michael Poli could not be reached for comment.
According to the four guards’ statements in the police report, they took Melsky into custody on Oct. 5 after spotting him placing bread and ice cream in a bag and then returning the items to shelves.
They told police they escorted him to a hallway near an upstairs office, where he struggled, shook off guard Tomas Roden, 34, of Tempe, and bumped into a wall. Melsky then lunged at guard Ronnie Michael, 24, of Gilbert, hit his head on a door frame, and fell backward onto the floor.
The other two guards were Jeffery Peter Adams, 21, of Mesa, and John Van Sice, 56, of Phoenix.
The wrongful-death suit noted witnesses' statements in previous police reports about Michael’s ties to white supremacist gangs and a previous encounter with Melsky, who is Jewish, at a different Fry’s store.
Michael could not be reached for comment.
While Melsky, a 26-year Scottsdale resident, had no criminal record in his home city, Gilbert Municipal Court records show he was convicted of shoplifting at two Gilbert grocery stores, including a Fry's store, in 2000 and 2001. Melsky's family said they did not know about his shoplifting convictions.
Perna criticized the press.
"Despite the high profile coverage of the case by the news media and their less than factual efforts to bias the investigation, we have endeavored as always to be fair, unbiased and only considered the evidence in the case," he said in a letter asking the county attorney's office to review the case.
Rhona Melsky has become a reporter, and her first Page One story was published last week.
"I wish my father could have seen it," she said. "God, I wish he was here. You can't lose sight of the fact that in spite of all this other stuff, he was a good father."