A man shot and killed a supermarket cashier in Georgia on Monday after arguing with her about wearing a mask, authorities said, before shooting an off-duty law enforcement officer who tried to intervene.
The cashier, identified by DeKalb County Police as 41-year-old Laquitta Willis, was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The suspect, Victor Lee Tucker Jr., 30, got into a dispute with Willis about a face mask while checking out at the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur on Monday afternoon, authorities said. He then left the store, came back inside, and walked up to Willis before pulling out a handgun and shooting her, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
Police said the suspect is facing charges of murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
At a press conference Monday, DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said an off-duty deputy who was at the store tried to intervene after the suspect shot the cashier. The deputy, Danny Jordan, shot the suspect and was fired at in return.
A former DeKalb County police officer, Jordan, 54, joined the sheriff's office reserves unit in 2021. He was working security at the supermarket that day, and a customer told him that the suspect had a gun, the sheriff's office said.
Both Jordan and the suspect are injured but in stable condition.
The suspect was arrested while trying to crawl out the front door of the supermarket, according to the bureau.
Another cashier was grazed by a bullet and was treated at the scene, the GBI said in its statement. It's not clear who fired that shot.
Maddox could not say what the argument was about exactly.
"It was over a mask," Maddox said. "Don't know if they were wearing or not wearing it...we don't know at this time."
However, Big Bear Supermarket store owner Ray Kim told 11 Alive that Willis had asked the suspect to pull up his face mask.
He already had a mask on his face, Kim said, and Willis, who was "a very cautious person," asked him to wear it correctly.
Decatur still requires anyone entering an establishment — which includes grocery stores — to wear a face covering or mask.
A GBI spokesperson and the DeKalb County Police Department, which is investigating the homicide, said there were no additional updates on the shooting.
A spokesperson with the sheriff's office told BuzzFeed News the suspect has not been booked into jail as of Tuesday morning but remains in custody at the hospital.
The politicization of face coverings has resulted in several violent incidents across the country since the start of the pandemic. In Stillwater, Oklahoma, in May 2020, officials walked back a policy requiring face masks in local businesses after employees were being verbally abused and threatened with violence. A man in Iowa was sentenced to 10 years in prison this month after fighting with and spitting in the face of a person who asked him to wear his mask properly.
Like the Georgia supermarket shooting, some of these disputes have also resulted in deaths. A security guard at a Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan, was shot and killed after an argument with a woman over her refusal to wear a mask in the store. A man who was denied service at a store in July 2020 allegedly stabbed another customer, then tried to attack a sheriff's deputy before being shot dead.