Orlando mother, son sue Walmart, allege assault

ORLANDO -- An Orlando mother and son who claim Walmart employees attacked them when they tried to return a television said Thursday they are still dealing with the emotional and economic stress from the incident.

Paula Ohle and Justin Ohle spoke publicly about the lawsuit they filed earlier this year against Walmart in response to the November 2009 attack at a store on John Young Parkway in Orange County. Their attorney also released surveillance video of the incident.

The Ohles say they bought what was supposed to be a 42-inch a television from the store, and they later discovered the box contained a different TV than it was supposed to. They complained to management by phone and were asked to return to the store.

But when they returned to the Walmart, the Ohles were confronted by several security employees.

According to the suit, officers pushed Paula Ohle, 61, to the ground, “violently” subdued her son and then falsely accused them of crimes when sheriff’s deputies arrived.

“It was terrible,” Paula Ohle said.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office records show Ohles was arrested on charges of trespassing and battery, and her son was charged with trespassing and resisting an officer without violence.

Deputies wrote in the arrest reports that the Ohles “grew very upset” after employees refused to let them return the television. A store employee accused Paula of punching him, an allegation she denied Thursday.

“We threw no punch,” she said.

But Walmart spokesman Greg Rossiter said they called the sheriff’s office at the time of the incident out of concern for the safety of customers and employees.

He also said the Ohles were arrested after using racial slurs and assaulting store associates.

Surveillance video from the customer service area shows several men surrounding the Ohles and then the confrontation between the mother and son, and Walmart employees. It’s not clear in the video who initiated the physical confrontation.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Ohle after determining that the case against her was “not suitable for prosecution.” But that didn’t stop the Ohles from having to spend time in jail. Their mug shots can be found the Internet, and they say they are still humiliated.

Charges against Justin Ohle, 28, accused of ignoring a deputy’s commands during his arrest -- he said Thursday he didn’t realize initially that a law-enforcer arrived and was involved -- were also dropped after he completed a pre-trial diversion program, records show.

Though the Ohles filed suit against the retailer in July, their attorneys said Walmart’s lawyers have not negotiated in good faith, are stalling, and have been uncooperative with routine requests in the case.

In legal filings, Walmart argues the Ohles were trespassing and its employees were acting in self defense.