Man arrested after assault of Walmart employee who asked him to wear face mask, B.C. RCMP say
WARNING: This story contains video depicting graphic violence
A 30-year-old man has been arrested for assault and mischief after allegedly assaulting an employee at a Walmart in Dawson Creek, B.C.
RCMP were called to the store at around 8 p.m. PT Wednesday after reports of a customer assaulting an employee who asked him to wear a face mask — which is both store policy and a provincial health order.
After reviewing surveillance footage, RCMP identified the suspect and arrested him at his home.
He has since been released and is expected to appear in court at a later date.
A video claiming to show the altercation, in which a man repeatedly punches someone he is sitting on, was posted to Facebook. The video has since been removed from public viewing.
"The involved victim received minor injuries not requiring immediate medical attention," said RCMP Sgt. Damon Werrell.
WATCH | Customer punches and knees Walmart employee while straddling him:
He said RCMP have a responsibility to enforce B.C.'s mandate.
"Individuals who refuse to wear a mask, exhibit abusive or belligerent behaviour, or fail to comply with patron conditions or requirements may be fined up to an amount of $230."
The mandate that face coverings are now mandatory in all retail spaces in the province was announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry last Thursday.
In a statement to CBC News, a Walmart spokesperson said the altercation was "completely unacceptable and deeply troubling."
"Our associates are doing everything they can to support our communities during this pandemic," the statement said.
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The statement also pointed out that masks are mandatory in all Walmart stores across the country.
"We know this behaviour does not reflect our customers in Dawson Creek, and they will join with us in condemning this assault."
The statement says the company will fully co-operate with the RCMP investigation to ensure the alleged attacker is held accountable for his crime.
Hostility over masks not isolated incident
The Walmart altercation is not an isolated incident in the province.
Last Friday, an accountant for a hotel in Nelson, B.C., was spat on by an angry customer who refused to wear a mask, the hotel manager said. Shortly after, the manager said, the woman had a heart attack and collapsed.
The customer is facing an assault charge.
Meanwhile, a Nelson grocery store has been forced to hire a security guard because of hostility toward staff from some customers angry about the mandatory mask rule.
The manager of the Kootenay Co-op said while most customers have followed the new regulations, some are refusing to wear a mask and can become confrontational when asked to do so.
With files from Joel Ballard