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Gay Couple Banned for Life from Wal-Mart

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Joe Paolucci and his partner, Thomas Hitchcock, have been barred for life from all Wal-Mart stores following a dispute over Bic lighters.

The Chicago lawyers visited a Michigan Wal-Mart with their two adopted special-needs 11-year-old sons in August. While Hitchcock bought groceries at a counter operated by a cashier, Paolucci went to a self-checkout lane to purchase, among other items, a package of lighters.

As the family left the store, an employee asked Paolucci if he had purchased the lighters and requested to see a receipt. The receipt did not show the lighters, and the family was asked to enter a detention room.

Paolucci refused and then asked store personnel to call police. Paolucci believed that a review of the security cameras would show that he had in fact purchased the lighters.

When the police arrived, Paolucci was immediately handcuffed without questioning and placed in the backseat of a squad car. Hitchcock was not handcuffed but was placed in the backseat of a second squad car.

The twins were turned over to the store's security personnel, who took them into the detention room.

Paolucci and Hitchcock estimated it was at least 45 minutes before officers told them they had reviewed the store's tapes and had determined that the lighters had not been shoplifted.

The two said they expected an apology and were surprised when personnel from the store instead read from a statement that Paolucci and Hitchcock had been barred from all Wal-Mart stores for life. Rather than shoplifting, the reason they were given was "being uncooperative," reports the South Bend Tribune.

"Everything they asked us to do, we did. We cooperated 100%," Paolucci argued. "We objected only when they tried to get us to go into the detention room."

Paolucci said he and Hitchcock asked the Berrien County prosecutor's office to file criminal charges against Wal-Mart's employees for injuries suffered by one of the twins as a result of the incident.

R. McKinley Elliott, the county's corporate counsel, advised against it. Elliott said a thorough review of the store's videotapes revealed nothing improper by either store employees or police.

"The prosecutor's office didn't see any basis for acting against anyone," said Elliott, according to the South Bend Tribune.

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