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A security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint, Michigan, was shot and killed after an argument ensued when he told a customer she was required to wear a face mask while shopping.
According to police, the incident started when Calvin Munerlyn told Sharmel Teague’s daughter, who has not been named but is said to be in her twenties, that she would need to wear a mask inside the store. While the daughter then returned to the family’s car, police say Teague, who was wearing a mask, remained in the store and started yelling and even spitting at Munerlyn. Prosecutors say Munerlyn then asked a cashier not to serve Teague.
Police say surveillance camera footage shows that after the argument, Teague got into her car and drove off, only for the vehicle to return to the parking lot about 20 minutes later. This time, police say, Teague’s husband and son, Larry Teague, 44, and Ramonyea Bishop, 23, climbed out of the family’s SUV. Investigators say Larry Teague approached Munerlyn and started yelling at him about disrespecting the women in his family. Bishop then allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Munerlyn in the head.
Police officers found Munerlyn bleeding in the store’s doorway.
Police have arrested Sharmel Teague, but her husband and son remain at large. All three have been charged with first-degree premeditated murder.
"From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the governor's executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers," Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton said in announcing the charges.
On April 24, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order requiring customers to wear face coverings inside businesses in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. While there were no penalties attached to the legislation, stores were allowed to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask. As of May 3, Michigan was reporting 43,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 4,000 deaths. In Genesee County, where Flint is located, officials say there have been 1,634 cases and 196 deaths.
“The hostile tone that we've seen in recent days on television and social media can permeate our society in ways that we sometimes don't fully realize or anticipate," Leyton said on Monday. “These should not be political arguments, they don't necessitate acts of defiance and we simply cannot devolve into an us-versus-them mentality.”
Munerlyn is survived by Latryna Sims Munerlyn, his wife of 10 years, eight children, and his mother.
"This just can't be real, my babies need their daddy," Sims Munerlyn, sobbing, told Flint television station WEYI. "I'm just suffocating. I feel like a knife is in my chest."
At the press conference Monday, Bryant Nolden, a Genesee County commissioner and director of the Berston Field House, a local gym where Munerlyn often worked out, said he had been a longtime friend.
"This really broke my heart," Nolden said. "He would come in three or four times a week and he'd train anyone who wanted to be trained for free. We have a senior dance, and he'd come and dance with the seniors."
On Sunday, friends and family gathered outside the Family Dollar store for a vigil, where they released balloons into the sky and spelled Munerlyn’s nickname, Duper, with candles. They said Munerlyn was a gentle giant who was always willing to help anyone.
“This is not the way to do things right now," Munerlyn's cousin, Tina James, told local television station WJRT. "We need to come together."
"This is senseless — over a mask! Over a mask!" she added. "I don't understand it."