Woman convicted of assaulting, threatening Walmart worker in Hamilton


Published March 14, 2023 at 2:56 pm


A woman did not pay for items at a Hamilton Walmart three years ago — and a judge did not buy her claim of self-defence for threatening and punching the male worker who tried to stop her.

A court ruling released Monday details that Jessica Tadam was found guilty of assault and uttering a threat to cause death in an incident on July 9, 2020, at one of the retail giant’s stores in Hamilton.

Video evidence, as Justice J.P.P. (Joe) Fiorucci wrote in his ruling, was “contrary” to the claims that Tadam had made about the actions of Mark Burai, a Walmart asset protection investigator who asked her to return the stolen items. Burai told the court that Tadam said she had pepper spray and a knife and that she was going to stab him, and the court accepted his evidence.

The judge’s written decision went so far as to call Tadam “unworthy of belief” as a witness.

“The accused’s evidence was an emotional delivery of denials of any wrongdoing whatsoever in relation to the events of July 9, 2020,” Fiorucci writes in the ruling, which is publicly available at canlii.org.

“She portrayed herself as the victim of an unprovoked attack by a complete stranger which left her with no choice but to strike him. Many portions of the accused’s evidence were implausible. She refused to make appropriate concessions when confronted with other credible and reliable evidence in the case, including the video evidence. This significantly compromised her credibility as a witness and caused me to reject her evidence on material points. Overall, I found the accused to be a witness whose testimony was unworthy of belief.”

That day, Burai was working in plainclothes, monitoring shoppers from the store’s CCTV room and on the floor. He observed Tadam and her friend concealing items in a large purse the accused carried over her shoulder. Video showed that he caught up with Tadam in the store’s vestibule, between the inner doors and the exterior doors that lead into the parking lot. Security video from two vantages inside the store was introduced in court.

A uniformed security officer, Brian Shipley, corroborated Barai’s testimony. Barai told the court he held on to the purse Tadam was carrying, and tried to unzip it, but did not place his hands on her.

Pulled him ‘around in a circle’

Tadam testified: “You can see on the video like, he used like, very strong force and gripped my arm and was kind like, throwing me and dragging me around the parking lot, as you can see in the video.”

Noted Justice Fiorucci: “The video shows nothing of the sort.”

“… To the contrary, at one point in the parking lot, the accused drags and pulls Mr. Burai around in a circle as he continues to hold on to the purse. Notwithstanding the clarity of what is depicted in the (security) video, the accused maintains in cross-examination that the video depicts Mr. Burai attacking her.”

The video did not catch the entire confrontation. Barai testified that he was punched in the head and face “with a closed fist.” Tadam admitted to punching Barai. The judge noted that “the force used by the accused was grossly disproportionate to the minimal force Mr. Burai used in holding on to the accused’s purse.”

While Burai was not a police officer, Justice Fiorucci noted that the Criminal Code of Canada authorized him to make a warrantless arrest and “use as much force as was necessary for that purpose.”

The purse containing purloined merchandise was left at the store, and Tadam left the area in a vehicle driven by an acquaintance.

Officers from Hamilton Police (HPS) located Tadam the following day and laid charges. She was not actually charged with theft. She entered not-guilty pleas on both charges.

The case came before the Ontario Court of Justice on Aug. 12 and Sept. 7 of last year.

There are three Walmart Supercentre locations in Hamilton. The court does not state where the assault occurred.

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