Asked to adjust his mask, a customer killed a cashier and started a shootout, US police say
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Georgia - A customer who argued over wearing a mask at a Georgia supermarket in the US shot and killed a cashier Monday before engaging in a shootout with an off-duty sheriff's deputy that left the deputy and a second cashier wounded, officials said.
Police later identified the cashier as 41-year-old Laquitta Willis.
The shooting unfolded just after 1 p.m. Monday at the Big Bear Supermarket in Decatur, Georgia, when investigators say a customer, later identified as 30-year-old Victor Lee Tucker Jr, left the store after the mask dispute without making his purchase. But he immediately returned.
"Tucker walked directly back to the cashier, pulled out a handgun and shot her," the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said. After killing Willis, Tucker opened fire on the off-duty DeKalb County sheriff's deputy who tried to intervene during his shift as a security guard, the GBI said.
Tucker's bullets struck the deputy twice and grazed a second woman, who was also a cashier; neither of their wounds was considered life-threatening. The deputy fired back and hit Tucker at least once. Police arrested Tucker as he was "attempting to crawl out the front door of the supermarket," investigators said.
Tucker was arrested and accused of murder and two counts of aggravated assault, according to court records. He remained hospitalized for his injuries Tuesday and is expected to survive.
The name of the cashier who was injured and survived was not released. The officer was identified as Danny Jordan, 54, who serves as a reserves deputy, a unit of mostly retired law enforcement officers who provide support services and community outreach. Jordan works security while off-duty, as he was during Monday's shooting, the sheriff's department said.
Ray Kim, who owns the store, described Willis as a kind and loving woman whose family he had known for 15 years. Kim told Atlanta's 11 Alive News before the shooting that she asked Tucker to pull up his mask and did nothing to provoke him.
"He had a mask" on his face, Kim told 11 Alive News. "She is just a very cautious person, so she had asked him to pull up his mask. He refused and walked out, came back in, and did that."
Terrified customers described hearing gunshots and diving to the floor, fearful that the shooter might kill everyone inside.
"My life flashed before my eyes," customer Ashley Cheek told 11 Alive News. "And I said, 'I'm in a grocery store buying groceries and I might never see my kids again.' "
DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox credited Jordan, the off-duty deputy, for saving lives with his quick intervention.
"That is what he's trained to do, that's part of his 30-year career in law enforcement," Maddox said during a Monday news conference. "All of us here are trained to intervene and to respond."
The shooting at Big Bear Supermarket came less than three months after shootings at three Atlanta-area spas killed eight people, and after an attacker killed 10 people at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado - the beginnings of troubling shooting trends for 2021.
The first six months of the year have seen a rise in fatal shootings that is already outstripping the pace of such attacks from 2020 - which was the deadliest year for gun violence in two decades.
The shooting also comes after more than a year of supermarket employees working through the pandemic as they faced dual threats of the coronavirus and angry customers who often grow irate - and sometimes violent - over safety restrictions such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
When states significantly relaxed or eliminated pandemic restrictions around Memorial Day, some cities and individual businesses opted to keep some measures in place. Decatur's mask ordinance, which requires face coverings while indoors at grocery stores and other buildings, was in effect during Monday's shooting. It expires next Monday.