Autistic Grocery Clerk Fired From California Supermarket After He Was Violently Assaulted Three Separate Times: Report

A self-described autistic grocery store clerk was reportedly fired from his job at a California supermarket after he was attacked on the job three times.

Austin Sherrell, who describes himself as “mildly autistic,” worked as a clerk at the Vons supermarket in Bakersfield. He was the victim of three separate violent attacks while working at the supermarket. But when he applied for worker’s compensation, he says he was told to take time off, then his hours were cut, then he was fired.

Sherrell’s responsibilities included bagging groceries, collecting shopping carts, and taking out the trash around the store. In an interview with local NBC affiliate KGET, he said he was well-liked by the customers at his store. “You know, not to toot my own horn, a lot of people say that they like me,” he said. “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, we like that [employee].’ … Like, I hear it. I hear it all the time.”

The first incident happened in January at a dumpster behind the store. “I’m taking out the trash,” he said. “Two people are stealing. They go out the side (door).” Upon seeing him, one of the thieves immediately punched him in the face. The other person then pepper-sprayed him. “I’m bleeding,” Sherrell said. “I get away, I run back inside.” By the time police arrived, the two thieves were gone.

The second incident happened in March. Again, Sherrell was taking out the trash at the same dumpster, when a man attacked him with a knife. Fortunately, the clerk had stuffed a roll of extra trash bags into his apron, which stopped the blade so that it couldn’t harm him. Again, the police showed up too late to catch the criminal.

The clerk said he was rattled by the assault. “The first incident didn’t shake me too much but the second incident, like, when you are close to death, I’m the most shook up I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Sherrell said. “The most scared I’ve even been in my entire life.”

Finally, in April, Sherrell was working inside the store when two women walked up to him and said they were being harassed by a man in the store, possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sherrell says he approached the man, along with a store security guard and a manager, who reportedly stood by while the assailant confronted Sherrell. “He gets in my face, he’s cussing me out, he’s threatening my life,” Sherrell recalled. “I back away, he comes back in my face. I back away again. The third time I defend myself, I push him off of me.”

Rattled by three assaults in just four months, Sherrell applied for worker’s compensation. “My biggest problem – what I have is – I’m mildly autistic,” he said. “I have a hard time processing things.” On a GoFundMe page, Sherrell’s father Adam said that Austin suffered nightmares and panic attacks after the knife attack.


But the store suspended him pending an investigation. When he returned, he says his hours were cut. Shortly after that, he was reportedly fired for touching a customer.

Sherrell told KGET that he has no desire to continue working for the grocery chain, but expressed his gratitude to the customers who treated him nicely during his time there.

As of the publishing of this article, the GoFundMe has raised more than $5600.

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