Benny Breen of Westmont says he was let go from his job at Target just a few days after he was punched in the face by an adolescent whom he stopped from riding his bike through the store.
By Matt Skoufalos | July 28, 2023
On Sunday night, Benny Breen took multiple punches in the face from a teenager whom he interrupted from riding a bicycle through the Westmont Plaza Target, where Breen was working.
On Wednesday afternoon, Breen reported for his scheduled shift at that same Target, only to learn he was being fired over the encounter.
Neither Target nor Kimco Realty, which operates the Westmont Plaza, have responded to multiple requests for comment on the incident.
It’s left Breen disheartened, confused, and out of a job — all for doing what he felt was the responsible thing to protect himself and his colleagues.
Throughout the time that he worked for the store, Breen said its employees dealt with the persistent issue of unruly customers — mostly unattended minors — including shoplifting, petty vandalism, personal abuse, and finally, assault.
“The attitude I’m getting from just about everyone who works there is, ‘Just let it happen,'” he said. “They know what’s happening, and no one gets involved because it’s a day-to-day thing.”
On days like Sunday, when Breen said in-store security weren’t on-hand to intercept a juvenile from riding his bike throughout the store, shoppers and employees don’t have anyone else to rely on but themselves.
“They’re creating a nuisance, and someone has to step in,” he said. “And nobody was there to do that; or there were plenty of people to do that, and no one wanted to.”
Wednesday was Breen’s first day returning to the store since having been assaulted there. He said none of his supervisors had reached out to inquire about his well-being in the time since.
Arriving about 45 minutes ahead of his scheduled shift to speak with the higher-ups, Breen said he was made to wait while his manager ignored him and had a piece of cake in the break room.
When his bosses did finally acknowledge him, Breen said they told him they’d reviewed security footage from the encounter, and concluded that he appeared to be assuming an aggressive posture towards the teen who’d struck him.
Breen was not allowed to review the footage.
“They said, ‘Based on what we saw, it looked like you moving towards him rather than away from him,” Breen said.
“I said, ‘I’m trying to get him towards the door. Then he hit me a couple more times after that. What would you have done?'”
Breen said his manager replied that he should have walked away from the encounter.
“If I walk away, that’s just putting it on someone else,” Breen said. “Someone else should have been backing me up at this point.”
Breen said he’s especially frustrated by the incident because he feels it’s symptomatic of a broader deterioration of the workplace at Target. He pointed out that employees there are trained to pay more attention to wet floor surfaces in the store than to fellow team members who are subjected to harassment and confrontation.
“If there’s a spill, you’re taught to address it immediately, either through alerting someone, or cleaning it up, but you don’t walk past it,” Breen said. “Don’t ignore it; otherwise, somebody’s going to slip and fall. It’s the same principle.”
Since being dismissed, Breen said he’s retained legal counsel regarding the incident. He continues to await word on the investigation from Haddon Township police, who did not immediately reply to a request for comment on this story.
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