PROLOGUE: The manager of the F.W. Woolworth Co. store at Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center didn't smile when we met, and he didn't offer to shake my hand.
Instead, he folded his arms across his chest and glared down his nose.
At that point yesterday, we hadn't been introduced, and the manager had no reason to think I was a journalist with embarrassing questions to ask about two of his employees. I could have been a customer or a salesman. For all he knew, I might even have been from Woolworth's Atlanta headquarters.
It's a small enough thing, I know. I've been glared at in better stores than Woolworth.
I mention it only in the interest of full disclosure in light of the following story. I want you to know that my first impression of this store was not a favorable one.
"These are not nice people," I thought. "This is not a pleasant place to shop."
Unfair? Probably. So, take it for what it's worth. A first impression based on one man's rudeness.
THE STORY: After the incident ended, Corey Golden Sr. lifted his 5-month-old son out of his baby carriage and held him in his arms.
Then he began to cry.
The incident occurred about 6:30 p.m. on March 28 in a rear hallway of the Woolworth store.
Golden, 29, says he had just been handcuffed and beaten by a security guard and the store's assistant manager. He claims that the attack was entirely unprovoked.
But that's not why he began to cry.
"It just overwhelmed me," he said. "Here was my first son, all innocent and happy. He practically just arrived on this Earth, and then he sees me beaten up this way. The violence. The disrespect. To his own father.
"I know he probably doesn't understand any of it, so it's a sheer ego thing," Golden continued. "But I couldn't help it. I just lost it."
Golden's story is so inexplicable that it almost defies belief.
But he has color photographs showing close-ups of the bruises on his face. He has a list of witnesses willing to testify on his behalf. Most telling is that official police accounts back him up on almost every point.
Police said they first were called to the store for a report of a "violent shoplifter." But according to their report, the store security officers conceded there had not been a shoplifting and Golden had not been violent.
Apparently, a clerk had forgotten to decode a purchase, which set off the alarms when Golden and his wife and child tried to leave the store. Security guards told police that the Goldens waited at the door when the alarms went off and voluntarily surrendered their bags. But when Golden complained after one of the guards snatched a bag from his hand, the inexplicable decision was made to handcuff him.
When security officers walked Golden back toward the rear office, police said, the group encountered the assistant manager who allegedly "began striking him [Golden] about the face and head" apparently without provocation.
"He was so hyper it was unbelievable," said Golden. "He was so hyper his hands were shaking. I have never in my life seen so much hatred in somebody's face. It was like he wanted to kill me. My wife was trying to pull him off me and he even lunged at her."
The incident ended, according to witnesses, when bystanders pulled the assistant manager away. Golden was treated at Bon Secours Hospital, but he escaped serious injury.
The next day, police went to the store and arrested Dwight Douglas Boehm, 28, of Perry Hall, and Antoine Boswell, 28, of South Baltimore, on charges of assault and battery. Boehm is the store's assistant manager; Boswell a security guard. They both were released on $5,000 bail each.
EPILOGUE: Golden told me that both he and his wife are sober, law-abiding people, gainfully employed, who have never been arrested. It was as if he felt tainted by this inexplicable event, as if people might wonder whether he deserved such a beating.
Meanwhile, Woolworth officials refused to comment. Boehm and Boswell, according to employees, continue to work there. The Goldens say nobody from the company has contacted them to apologize, or even to get their side of the story.
So, we are left with the impression that a company apparently is indifferent to an alleged act of violence on one of its customers.
Golden is not the one who ought to feel tainted.