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Big 5 store manager quits after being forced to sell a gun to man she found threatening, suit says

He was a customer who wanted to buy a gun. She was a store manager who balked, finding the man erratic, threatening and potentially dangerous.

Their tense interaction at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in Downey prompted police to step in, according to a lawsuit.

Delilah Rios claims that after company officials overruled her and released a weapon to the customer, she resigned. In the civil suit filed this week, she alleged wrongful termination and violation of labor laws, among other claims.

“She feared for her safety and felt that money meant more to Big 5 Corporation than public safety or employee safety,” according to the lawsuit. “She felt she could not work at a company where she would be forced to release firearms to people who should not have guns.”

A spokesman for the El Segundo-based company did not respond to a request for comment. 

In her suit, Rios said the problem began Jan. 21, 2015, when she assisted a middle-aged man who wanted to purchase a firearm. The customer passed a newly instituted safety test, but stormed into the “restricted area” of the store when she was processing his payment, retrieved his identification and credit card and left, she claims.

Two days later, he returned and said he wanted “any crappy old gun,” selecting a 12-gauge shotgun, the suit says. While filling out a federally required form documenting the sale, he reportedly relied on a friend’s assistance. When Rios told him he was legally required to complete the form alone, the customer became agitated, the lawsuit said. He later accused her of selling him the wrong weapon and returned the next day to select another model, she alleges.

After the mandatory 10-day waiting period elapsed, he came to the store on the night of Feb. 4, 2015, but Rios claims in her suit the store was busy — she was working at the cash register for an employee on break — and that she did not have enough time to release the firearm.

“I paid for it, and you need to give me my [expletive] gun,” he said, according to the lawsuit. He left after she threatened to call police, she said.

Later that evening, she claims in her lawsuit that she found unused ammunition on the floor in the aisle where the man had lingered, but it was not a type sold by Big 5. She said in the court papers that she became concerned the customer was bringing in live ammunition for the exact firearm he wanted to pick up.

She claims she reported the incident to corporate management and, against her opposition, a supervisor’s response was to call the customer and ask him if he brought in the ammunition.

The next day, the man returned and became irate and yelled loudly as she approached, she said in her suit. “You again. I … hate people like you. People like you should not exist,” he said, according to the suit. “I hope you get fired.”

She claims she was afraid and told him that she would not hand over the firearm. She said she offered a refund, but he refused to leave.

Rios alleges two off-site supervisors questioned why she could not just release the gun. Another manager who was on his day off eventually came and, with police present, handed over the gun along with a $25 gift card, according to the lawsuit.

Afterward, Rios claims she reported the incident to human resources and asked to work at a different store. She said her request was denied, and she resigned. She had worked for the company for eight years, according to the suit.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno

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