Sometimes you see things and all you can do is shake your head — and write.
On January 9, police shot to death 26-year-old Chiewelthap Mariar, a worker at Seaboard Foods Processing Plant in Guymon, Oklahoma.
Police say they were responding to a call on an agitated and disgruntled employee, who “produced a knife” and began walking towards the officers. The “officers attempted to de-escalate the situation before eventually deploying a taser. The taser was unsuccessful and Mariar continued advancing on officers at which point an officer fired his service weapon striking Mariar” who later died in the hospital. The case is currently being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBA).
Open and shut case? Not so fast.
Workers in the plant tell a different story.
As you can read below, the “call” to police was from management and the “knife” he “produced” was the company-issued band-cutter Mariar was using for work.
A worker, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Guardian newspaper that Mariar was fired earlier that day, but had been asked by a supervisor to stay on to finish his shift.
“I witnessed the entire thing, from when they started arguing with him until he was shot,” the worker told the Guardian. “He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand. When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business.”
The worker told The Guardian he himself was fired after the company discovered he had filmed portions of the incident on his cell phone.
The worker provided cellphone footage leading up to and following the incident, where Mariar can be seen with the band-cutter in his hand working around other employees and being confronted by officers on the shop floor.
“They made him out to be a danger when they said he had a knife in his hand, when it wasn’t. And that’s wrong on so many levels,” the worker said.
The union, UFCW Local 2, also disputes the official report and allege that police escalated the situation:
““Chiewelthap’s senseless death shows that workplace issues should be dealt with sensitively in order to deescalate them, with the police called on to intervene only when necessary to protect workers’ lives and address serious safety concerns,” said Martin Rosas, president of the local union.
The local police did not take sufficient measures to protect our members – and this worker instead brandishing their weapons and ultimately taking the life of a 26-year old young man who had his whole life before him,” said Martin Rosas, president of UFCW District Union Local 2, in a Jan. 12 statement.
“The union will take all measures to ensure justice is achieved,” Rosas added.
In his statement, Rosas said Mariar and his family came to the U.S. “to escape the violence and strife of Sudan.”
The union is calling for an immediate federal investigation of the incident.
Seaboard was already on OSHA’s naughty list.
Last year, OSHA cited Seaboard for failing to properly document worker injuries and illnesses on at least 51 occasions over a period of two months in early 2022. The union had filed a complaint in April 2021 alleging that Seaboard Foods underreported injuries and illnesses to OSHA, especially coronavirus cases.
And in In 2018, Seaboard agreed to pay a just over $1 million fine for hiring and employing unauthorized workers at the Guyman plant, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
We shall see what the official OSBA report concludes, and if there will be a federal investigation of this incident.
And what will OSHA do? Is this a case of workplace violence, a violation of OSHA’s General Duty Clause?