When a cigar shop clerk told Adam Zaborowski on Friday that he had to wear a mask in the shop, the 35-year-old angrily refused. Instead, he grabbed two stogies, stormed outside — and then pulled a handgun and shot at the clerk, Bethlehem Township, Pa., police said.
The next day, cornered near his home, Zaborowski allegedly fired at police with an AK-47, sparking a wild shootout with at least seven officers that ended with him shot multiple times and under arrest.
The case is the latest violent incident tied to arguments over mandatory mask orders. But Zaborowski’s reaction was driven by his own intense difficulty with the pandemic, his attorney claimed; before the shootout, Zaborowski had lost his job and had also recently lost custody of his child.
“He just wasn’t dealing well with the loss of his job, the loss of his child, just not handling the pandemic well,” John Waldron told the Express-Times on Sunday, while noting those factors didn’t justify his violent conduct. “I think he was getting stretched too tight.”
In recent weeks, police say that arguments over masks have led to the vicious beating of Trader Joe’s employees in New York, the fatal shooting of a Family Dollar store security guard in Michigan, and the shooting of a McDonald’s worker in Oklahoma. That violence adds more challenges for retail stores and restaurants where workers are left to dictate mask rules that authorities often haven’t given police the option to enforce.
Zaborowksi’s alleged crime spree started Friday morning at Cigars International in Bethlehem Township, where he adamantly argued that he didn’t have to wear a mask, even after a clerk offered to serve him curbside.
Instead, Zaborowski pulled out a sheet of paper to point out a line in Pennsylvania state law that he insisted proved that he didn’t have to wear a mask, a witness to the scene told WFMZ. In fact, Pennsylvania, which has had more than 113,000 cases of covid-19 and more than 7,200 deaths, made masks mandatory in most locations outside of the home starting July 1.
“It was crazy,” said Tom Gallagher, who was shopping in the store at the time. “It’s a mask, you know. The guy was obviously anti-mask.”
After Zaborowski walked out without paying for his cigars, police say he fired his gun once in the air and twice at a clerk who confronted him outside. Multiple customers were also sitting outside the shop in the direction he fired.
The next morning, police and state troopers were waiting to arrest Zaborowski outside his home in Slatington, Pa., when he hopped in a truck and drove off, police told the Express-Times. When they stopped him nearby, he jumped out of the vehicle and started firing at police with the AK-47 and a semiautomatic handgun.
“Both the Slatington Borough officer and troopers returned fire and struck Zaborowski,” Trooper Nathan Branosky said in a news release.
Zaborowski was hit in the buttocks and leg, Waldron said, and is expected to recover.
“The fact that he got shot twice with non-life-threatening injures when he had an AK-47 and another handgun, Adam is very fortunate he ended up the way he did,” Waldron told the Express -Times.
He’s now charged with 22 counts including attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and robbery, police said, and is being held on $1 million bail.
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