COVID-19: Dispute over mask wearing at Downtown Vancouver convenience store results in arrest

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      A disagreement about mask-wearing at a Downtown Vancouver store that escalated into violence has resulted in a male suspect being arrested.

      The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) stated today (February 9) that a man entered a convenience store near Seymour and Dunsmuir streets on February 8.

      A store employee asked him to wear a mask. When the suspect refused to do so, the employee declined to provide the suspect with service.

      The suspect then spat directly in the employee’s face.

      According to VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin, the two men became involved in a physical altercation.

      Afterward, the suspect left the store and fled in a vehicle. However, officers were able to locate him and took him into custody.

      Police are recommending assault charges to Crown counsel.

      Anyone who fails to wear a face mask in an indoor public space may receive a $230 fine.

      This incident is similar to one that took place at a 7-Eleven at Alma Street and West 10th Avenue on December 17. When a manager asked a customer to wear a mask, he refused to do so, spat on the manager, yelled profanities at him, and got into a physical fight with him.

      In a separate incident this past weekend involving an individual refusing to wear a mask, the VPD said that around 5 p.m. on February 5, a grocery store worker on Robson Street had asked a shopper to wear a mask. In response, the man became angry and threatened the assault the employee.

      When the suspect grabbed an apple and left without paying, the employee followed him outside. However, the suspect charged at the employee with a baton, then left before police arrived.

      Officers located the suspect later that evening while he was allegedly attempting to break into a locked compound in a mall parkade. The suspect has been charged with robbery, breaking and entering, and possession of break-in tools.

      In addition, a few other incidents in B.C. have also involved people spitting, which is considered assault. In one case, a passenger spat on a bus driver in Victoria, another involved a passenger spitting on a taxi driver, and a third involved a male suspect caught on camera after two Kitsilano businesses had found spit on their doors and windows for several months.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.