Crime

Man kills Georgia grocery worker in mask argument, police say

A suspect and a sheriff’s deputy were wounded as they exchanged gunfire in a suburb of Atlanta, the authorities said.


A customer who argued about wearing a face mask at a Georgia supermarket shot and killed a cashier Monday and wounded a sheriff’s deputy who was providing security at the store, law enforcement officials said.

The gunman was shot by the deputy, and both are expected to survive their injuries, according to law enforcement officials.

A suspect, identified as Victor Lee Tucker Jr., 30, of Palmetto, Georgia, was arrested by DeKalb County Police Department officers “as he was attempting to crawl out the front door of the supermarket,” according to a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The gunfire occurred just after 1 p.m. inside a Big Bear supermarket about 10 miles east of downtown Atlanta, officials said. That is when Tucker was checking out of the supermarket and got into an argument with a cashier about his face mask, the bureau said in its statement. Tucker left the store without purchasing his items but immediately returned.

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“Tucker walked directly back to the cashier, pulled out a handgun and shot her,” the bureau said. He then began shooting at the deputy, “who was attempting to intervene,” the bureau said.

The authorities identified the cashier Tuesday as Laquitta Willis, 41. She was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and pronounced dead, officials said. Tucker was taken there, too, and was in stable condition.

The DeKalb County sheriff, Melody Maddox, identified the injured deputy as Danny Jordan. He was taken to the Atlanta Medical Center and listed in stable condition, officials said.

He was wearing a bulletproof vest and it most likely saved his life, Maddox said at a news conference.

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Jordan, 54, served with the DeKalb County Police Department from 1998 until March, when he joined the reserves unit of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, Maddox said in a statement. The unit operates as a nonprofit and is composed of retired law enforcement officers who provide support services for the Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff said.

A second cashier was “grazed by a bullet” and treated at the scene for her injury, according to the bureau.

A man who indicated he was Tucker’s father declined to comment Monday night when reached by telephone.

The shooting came more than a year into the pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the United States and prompted health restrictions that crippled many businesses. For some, the public health rules prompted cries that personal freedoms were being violated.

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Enforcing the wearing of masks in public places became, at times, dangerous.

An Iowa man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assaulting and spitting on another man last year in a fight over how he was wearing his mask. An 80-year-old man died after he was pushed to the ground at a bar near Buffalo by a fellow customer whom he had asked to put on a mask.

And last June in Los Angeles, Hugo’s Tacos temporarily closed its two locations in the city because, it said, its staff was “exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks.”

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Enforcing mask policies had become a new American pastime.

Even on commercial airliners — where passengers have long been accustomed to invasive security searches, rising baggage costs and overbooked flights — federal officials said there was a “disturbing increase” in unruly passengers after airline crews sought to enforce mask and other safety regulations.

But that began to change as more people were vaccinated and warmer weather allowed for safer gatherings outdoors, where transmissions were less likely to occur.

Soon, restrictions began to fade. In New York state, for example, officials have announced plans to roll back restrictions and hold a parade for essential workers.

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But not every part of the country was succeeding against the virus at the same pace. Just last month, the city of Decatur, Georgia, near the site of Monday’s shooting, extended until at least June 21 its requirement for people to wear a face mask when entering any building in the city, except religious establishments, Decaturish.com reported.

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