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Police say a mask-less Florida man punched and spit on a 70-year-old man at a convenience store last week after being asked to socially distance.
Winter Park Police said in a statement posted to Facebook that the victim, who the department did not name, asked alleged attacker Rovester Ingram to move back somewhat while they shared similar space in a Citgo gas station convenience store Thursday because Ingram did not have a mask on.
Ingram, who is black, proceeded to follow the victim, who is white, outside and began punching him in the face, according to police. The victim turned and headed back inside the store to escape but Ingram followed him and continued attacking him.
He then shoved the victim to the ground, police said, grabbed him by his hair, and dragged him outside the store into a parking space where he continued beating on him.
“The victim was on his stomach as Ingram repeatedly punched him on his back, then spat on him and kicked him in the head before walking away,” police said.
Surveillance footage obtained by Fox35 Orlando shows part of the attack.
“Both of them are regular customers,” said Mohamed Tutul told the outlet, noting that the two began arguing at the counter.
“He mad. He tells me, ‘I come in here every day. Why are you telling me 6 feet,’” Tutul said, recalling what he heard Ingram say.
Fox35 reported that the victim was treated for severe trauma and broken bones. Police said they recognized Ingram from the surveillance video and arrested him at his home. He is facing charges of aggravated battery on a person over 65 and kidnapping.
At one point during the attack after Ingram dragged the victim outside, a shirtless man who had been at the counter in the convenience store merely walked on by.
This incident is just the latest to erupt over disagreements Americans have had with others who were not wearing a mask in public, sometimes in violation of local orders.
But earlier in the pandemic, when mask requirements were just beginning, reports noted that retail employees were increasingly coming under attack — verbally and physically — for enforcing mask rules and mandates.
“As more parts of the country reopen businesses, many retail workers have reluctantly turned into de facto enforcers of public health guidelines, confronting customers who refuse to wear masks or to maintain a wide distance from others,” The New York Times reported in May. “The risk of a violent reaction now hangs over jobs already fraught with health perils.”
The paper listed some examples of violent anti-mask outbursts and incidents up to that point:
— A Target employee in Van Nuys, Calif., received a broken arm after helping to remove two customers who were not wearing masks;
— A cashier at a convenience store in Perkasie, Pa., was punched in the face three times after she told a man not wearing a mask he could not buy a pack of cigars;
— A man who was informed he could not board a public bus in San Antonio because he did not have a mask shot a passenger.
Last month, in order to protect retail employees, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation making it a felony to assault workers who are enforcing mask rules.
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