Woman hospitalized after viral fight with store employee

·4 min read

Dec. 1—ROCKINGHAM — A customer at the Rainbow Shops store in Richmond Plaza was left hospitalized after an altercation with employees which was captured on video and drew thousands of comments and shares on Facebook.

An incident report from the Rockingham Police Department states that at 3 p.m. on Nov. 19, Cecily Nicole Cromartie of Scotland County, damaged clothes and display racks, valued at $500, and assaulted store employees. Cromartie's family members have claimed in interviews that she was the victim in the incident. Cromartie, 43, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia which she takes medication for, according to the family.

A photo of Cromartie with a police officer after the incident shows her with severe swelling in the face and neck area. The family did not wish for this photo to be published. Relatives of Cromartie feel that she was not attended to adequately. They also added that Cromartie was unable to speak to law enforcement due to the swelling.

Cromartie was transported to FirstHealth Regional Hospital, and then airlifted to the trauma unit of Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. She has undergone three surgeries since the incident, and may require more, according to the family.

According to Detective Clint Neeley with the RPD, no charges have yet been filed against anyone involved in the incident. Alice Graham, Cromartie's sister, said in a text Tuesday evening that the family plans to file a lawsuit against Rainbow.

"The detective handling the case advised individuals involved that they could obtain their own warrants from the Magistrate's Office," Neeley said in an email. "Medical aid was rendered on scene by First Health Emergency services."

No other agencies responded to the incident. Neeley said that investigators have seen video footage from inside the store and video that was shared on social media.

Two attempts to get comment from local Rainbow employees were unsuccessful. Voicemails left with Rainbow's corporate office both Monday and Tuesday were not returned.

Videos show drawn-out fight

Graham said that Cromartie was Christmas shopping in Aberdeen and traveled to Rainbow to purchase items for her two children.

According to Graham, and another relative who wished to stay anonymous, Cromartie entered the store wearing a mask and an employee told her to make sure that the mask covered her entire face. A dispute ensued, and multiple videos of the incident were posted to social media in fragments by witnesses in the store. Some of the videos, which have been reviewed by the Daily Journal, lack the full context of what led up to the fight.

Initially, Cromartie is seen walking up to an employee in the back of the store. A Rainbow employee is then seen pointing a finger in Cromartie's face.

In a separate video, Cromartie and a staff member are seen engaging in a fight and pushing one another. Once this first clash is over, Cromartie is seen knocking items off of a store rack and throwing various merchandise.

In another video, Cromartie is seen in a back room bleeding on the ground. It's not clear how this injury occurred. At one point, a staff member pushes Cromartie to the ground.

"Right now, she's bleeding 'cause she swung on me and my associates," says an individual off-screen in the video, apparently talking to a 9-1-1 operator. Another individual has called for the front door to be locked until the police arrive.

At one point, a Rainbow employee walks to a backroom, stating "I've got a treat for you." It's not clear what this statement is referring to. Cromartie knocks more items off of the racks before following the employee to the back. When the employee emerges from a closed door in the rear of the store, they immediately reengage in a fight in which Cromartie is again thrown to the ground.

The employee then drags Cromartie along the carpet floor for nearly the entire length of the store — for about 40 seconds, based on the video — by the hood of her sweatshirt. Her clothing is partially removed in the process. When she stands up again, the video shows that Cromartie's hip and backside are bright red from what appears to be rugburn, which a witness in the video reacts to.

Records with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety show that Cromartie has been previously convicted of one misdemeanor count each of disorderly conduct and assault/threats against a government employee in March of 2017. Prior to that, she was convicted of one misdemeanor count of larceny.

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Reach Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]

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