Victor Lee Tucker, 30, was checking out at a Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur, 15 minutes east of Atlanta, when he got into an argument with a cashier over a mask, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a news release. Eyewitnesses told Atlanta news station WSB-TV Tucker had refused to put on his mask.
Tucker left the store but “immediately returned,” and then allegedly “walked directly back to the cashier, pulled out a handgun and shot her,” the GBI said. After allegedly shooting the cashier, whose identity has not been released, Tucker allegedly began shooting at an off-duty DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputy who worked at the supermarket. The owner of the store told WSB-TV the deputy had been hired to help enforce mask policies.
Both the deputy and Tucker wounded each other as they exchanged gunfire, the GBI said, and then Tucker was arrested by two DeKalb County cops as he attempted to crawl out the front door of the supermarket.
The cashier was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and another cashier who was “grazed by a bullet” was treated at the scene, according to the GBI. Both the injured cop and Tucker are in stable condition at hospitals in Atlanta.
The Big Bear shooting is not the first instance of someone being hurt or killed for attempting to enforce store or government COVID-19 policies. Last May, a security guard at a Dollar Tree discount store in Detroit was shot and killed after refusing entry to a woman who would not wear a mask. In September, an 80-year-old customer at a bar was shoved to the ground by a fellow patron after he reportedly asked the man to put on a mask. He died as a result of his injuries.
And in February of this year, as the deadliest wave of the pandemic in the U.S. so far was in full swing, a customer at a grocery store in Parker, Colorado slapped a worker who repeatedly told her to put on her mask, according to KDVR.
Grocery store and other essential workers have also been some of the most at-risk and vulnerable people during the pandemic. The United Food and Commercial Workers International union, which represents more than 835,000 grocery workers across the U.S. and Canada and has more than 1.3 million members total, said earlier this month that at least 41,700 of its grocery worker members have tested positive for COVID-19 and 184 have died as a result of the disease.
As COVID-19 case numbers have reached their lowest point since widespread testing became available, many states including Georgia have nixed masking and social distancing requirements, though businesses are still able to make their own policies. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance saying that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors.
But given that there’s no way to tell who’s actually vaccinated, as well as the fierce resistance to “vaccine passports,” essential workers are left to trust customers to be honest about their vaccination status. And last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Biden administration released mandatory workplace safety rules that only applied to healthcare workers, and not other essential workers as was expected. The UFCW said last week that the new rule “completely ignores the health threat grocery and meatpacking workers are still confronting.”
“This is a slap in the face to the millions of American frontline workers and their families who have been infected and killed by this deadly virus,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.