UTAH

Man threatens to shoot up The Stockist store over a mask request

Apr 11, 2021, 9:18 PM | Updated: Apr 12, 2021, 7:52 am
mask mandate anti-mask customer threatens store...
Employees closed the Stockist store in Salt Lake City after an customer refused to comply with mask requirements and threatened to shoot up the establishment. (Photo: Amy Donaldson)
(Photo: Amy Donaldson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Josh Edgar is used to the range of unpleasant reactions he gets from customers at The Stockist when he asks them to wear a mask while they shop in the Salt Lake City store.

But Sunday, a man’s reaction was so violent he and his co-worker called police and closed the store.

“The guy came in with his mask around his chin, and I asked him to put his mask on to shop with us,” Edgar said. “He said, ‘Why the F do I need to wear a mask?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s our rules.’ And he said, ‘Well this is my country. I don’t have to wear a mask.’ And I said, ‘In order to shop with us, you do have to, that’s our store rules.’ And then it just devolved into a bunch of profanities.”

The man acted like he was going to put a mask over his mouth and nose, but then he continued swearing and calling the employees names “under his breath.”

 

“And that’s when I said, ‘You can’t talk to us that way. You’re just going to have to leave’,” Edgar said. “And he was like, ‘Are you effing kidding me right now?! Like you’re not being serious,’ and just going on and on.”

Edgar insisted the man leave, and told him he was no longer welcome as a customer.

“And that’s when he said, ‘I’m going to go get my gun. I’m going to come back and shoot you all’,” Edgar said. “I didn’t take it too seriously, at first. It’s such a crazy thing to say to someone […] But then you sit on that for a second, and you’re like, ‘Oh, wait. Maybe he’s serious.’”

Jack Carrasco watched the entire exchange from behind the register, and he said he walked closer to the two men after the man began screaming because he was afraid the confrontation was going to get physical.

“When Josh asked him to put on a mask, he immediately exploded with rage and fury,” Carrasco said. “Josh asked him to leave, and he started getting angrier and angrier […] I was watching the customers that were in the store, and everybody had their eyes on the situation. Everybody was extremely uncomfortable.”

One customer even “chimed in and said, ‘You know, you have to follow the rules of the store because it’s not your store’,” Carrasco said. “It was crazy.”

The store has a sign asking customers to wear masks inside, and there is a stack of medical masks on a small table with hand sanitizer, which are free to customers. Still, both men said there are a small but constant stream of customers who bristle at the request to wear a mask. 

“Most of the time people are really pleasant about it,” Carrasco said. “Or they might be a little bit annoyed that you’re telling them what to do. It’s never gotten to this extent.”

After the man left the store, they left a message for the Stockist’s owner, Helen Wade, and then they decided the threat was serious enough to close the shop and call police. 

“I waited here an hour after we called them, and then we just decided to get going because we felt incredibly unsafe,” Edgar said. “Jack came back, called the police (for a second time), and they said that they were too busy to come deal with this, that they had too much going on. Which, I think, is maybe the most frustrating part of this.”

Edgar said the threat comes after a long, difficult year for those working in retail and the service industry.

“It’s hard because people don’t realize how hard we’ve had to work to get to the place that we’re at right now,” Edgar said. “And people just exist in a place of privilege when they come in here. They think that they’re above the rules. And it’s just funny when we ask someone to follow our rules, it’s all of a sudden personal liberty issue.”

But they do not extend that same ‘personal liberty’ to the right of others to follow public health guidelines. 

“It’s hard to have this fight day in and day out,” he said. “And it’s hard to see people just even roll their eyes at you when you ask them to put a mask on it. It’s exhausting and you carry it home with you. And you’re not supposed to, but you do.”

He is not alone. 

Stockist owner Helen Wade said she has no idea how to help both her employees and her customers feel safe in the coming days. Salt Lake police never sent anyone to talk to them. They did give her a case number, but eight hours after they called the police for the first time, no officer had taken their statements or visited the store, she said.

The last year has been particularly tough for retail shops like the Stockist.

“This time last year, we were completely shut down,” Wade said. “We had to shut down for March, April, most of May. And then we also had to navigate this entire new world that I really felt there were no guidelines (for), because we’re all figuring it out all at the same time. This is a new, you know, very new disease that we didn’t know much about. So we’ve been figuring it out and following guidelines from the CDC, following what the scientists and doctors say, and always requiring masks even before they’re mandated for people to shop them to the store. So, yeah, it’s been exhausting.” 

State officials ended Utah’s statewide mask mandate Saturday, but Salt Lake City officials extended the city-wide mask mandate indefinitely.

“When it was statewide, the mandate did help,” she said. 

She said the mask mandates from state and local governments help business owners like her.

“The mandate does help,” she said. “It gave us like just one foot to stand on and be like, ‘This is required everywhere. Wherever you go, you’re gonna have to wear a mask.’ It’s not just us, or not just like five businesses in Utah. It’s the entire state. So it was really unfortunate that they rolled back the mandate on April 10. It just doesn’t make sense. Even mathematically, people getting the vaccines, we’re still not there yet. I’m really thankful that Salt Lake City did extend the mass mandate.”

Right now her immediate concern, however, is the mental and emotional wellbeing of her employees.

“You’re not just going to be able to go home and let that go,” she said. “They’re going to have to process this. And who knows what tomorrow is going to look like? Are they going to come in tomorrow and feel unsafe anytime anybody walks through the door? So, I’m extremely worried even about the employees who weren’t here today.”

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Man threatens to shoot up The Stockist store over a mask request