Academy Sports employee fired for tackling would-be gun thief

Police: Man who tried to run out of store with gun wanted to shoot someone

By Mike Vasilinda, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An assistant manager at a Tallahassee sporting goods store who tackled a would-be gun thief who police said planned to kill someone was fired because he physically touched a “customer.”

Police said 24-year-old Jason White went into the Academy Sports on Mahan Drive on June 29 with one goal in mind: steal a gun.

According to his arrest affidavit, White grabbed a backpack inside the store, stuffed it with ammunition and then asked to see a Glock that was kept in a glass case. When an employee handed over the firearm, White took it and ran straight for the exit, police said.

"My employee yelled, 'Stop that man!' And I turned and looked and saw Mr. White running from the gun bar toward the front of the store with a firearm in his hand,” Dean Crouch said. "At the front door is where I stopped him. I tackled him to the ground. We apprehended him and detained him. We secured the firearm.”

Crouch, 32, stopped White between the inner and outer doors leading to the parking lot, police said. The gun went flying out of White's hand, and he was taken to the manager's office while the police were called, according to the affidavit.

Altogether, White had been trying to make off with $709.91 worth of merchandise, police said.

According to police, White had stolen two other guns earlier in the day and ammunition was found in his car. Police said he admitted that he planned to shoot someone who he said was threatening his family.

Booking photo of Jason White

White was charged with three felonies, released on $5,000 bond and required to undergo mental health counseling. 

Crouch was hailed as a hero for preventing a possible tragedy, but an Academy Sports company policy prohibits touching customers. The company initially suspended Crouch for a week, then fired him on a conference call.

"Our world is pretty much turned upside down after this,” Crouch said. "We had to put our house on the market because of this.”

Former NRA President Marion Hammer called the firing "just plain crazy."

“This is insanity. This man is a hero,” Hammer said. "He stopped an initial crime that would have led to other crimes, and he gets fired? How on Earth is that right?”

Crouch has since gotten several job offers. He’s also emailed Academy Sports, asking the company to reconsider.

“I loved my job there,” Crouch said.

In a statement, Academy Sports spokesperson Elise Hasbrook said:

"While this incident ended without injuries, actions inconsistent with our corporate policies were taken. Although we don't comment on specific personnel issues or share company policies, we can confirm that we've addressed the matter with the local store team and the individuals involved." 

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