March 31, 2021

A Black man, Zhadius Penn, was shot and killed by a security guard at the Ralph’s supermarket in downtown San Diego on the night of February 12th, 2021.  According to news reports, the circumstances were as follows:

Mr. Penn was confronted by the guard on suspicion of attempting to shoplift a bottle of alcohol.  Mr. Penn threw the bottle of alcohol at the guard, cutting the guard’s head, and then fled the store.  The guard used his gun to shoot at Penn, who by that time was outside the supermarket.  Mr. Penn was hit and pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to these same news reports, the San Diego County DA is not going to prosecute the security guard, because the guard was acting in self-defense.

We are left with the following questions:

  • How is killing a man who is running away “self-defense”?
  • Did the guard chase Mr. Penn before shooting him?  How would that be self-defense?
  • How safe is it to shoot through an open doorway, with limited visibility, into the darkness?  Had Mr. Penn not been struck, who else might have been killed?
  • Would Mr. Penn be alive today if he had been white?
  • Would charges have been filed against the security guard if Mr. Penn had been white?
  • Was the security guard an off-duty member of the law enforcement community?
  • What company employs the guard, and what are their policies and procedures?  Will he face any sanctions from the company?
  • If the security guard is a police officer, will he face any sanctions from the law enforcement agency which employs him?
  • Where is Ralph’s in all this?  Do they approve of what has been done?  Will they be pushing for change?



What we see is a Black man executed for suspicion of shoplifting.  Not, this time, by a sworn officer acting in the line of duty, but by an employee of a grocery store.  At what point will we see the District Attorney start protecting our lives by prosecuting the perpetrators of unnecessary gun violence?

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch


Founded in 1919 after a visit by renowned author, activist and NAACP co-founder, W.E.B. DuBois, the NAACP San Diego Branch is celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of the people of San Diego. If you need more information about the NAACP San Diego Branch, please visit

PO Box 152086
San Diego CA 92195

(619) 431-1633 Phone/Text

Celebrating 102 years of civil rights advocacy in San Diego

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