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Man arrested, charged in threat against store over mask policy

Apr 12, 2021, 5:15 PM | Updated: 6:57 pm
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 — Just a day after a Salt Lake City store closed early because of a threat from a customer who refused to wear a mask, police have arrested a man in the case. 

William C. Lewis, 42, faces a disorderly conduct charge related to a confrontation over the weekend at The Stockist, a store near 9th and 9th in Salt Lake City. Police say they booked him into the Salt Lake County jail. 

Dispute over mask policy leads to threat against store

According to employees at The Stockist, they called police after a man entered their store, refused to comply with the posted mask policy, then issued a threat to shoot them.  

Josh Edgar, a store employee, described the exchange to KSL NewsRadio on Sunday. 

“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.”

According to Edgar, the man indicated he would comply, but instead, continued to swear. 

“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.”

After that, Edgar says the exchange devolved into a threat against the store and its employees. 

“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.’”

Edgar and his coworkers opted to close the store out of concern over the threat. 

Statewide mask mandate ended, but not Salt Lake City’s

This weekend marked the first one in which the statewide mask mandate expired, as of Saturday, April 10. But many private businesses continue to require masks on their premises, and Salt Lake City extended its mask mandate indefinitely beyond the expiration of the statewide version.

Helen Wade, who owns The Stockist, said she understands not everyone will want to follow the rules. 

“But, also, I’m not forcing you to come into my store. So if you choose not to wear a mask, that’s great, I understand. Just don’t come into my store until the mask mandate [for Salt Lake City] has been lifted,” she said. 

Wade said she felt safe enough to reopen Monday in spite of the weekend threat, but considered whether to offer self defense classes to her employees. 

“Now it’s like a new day, and I just have to figure out what we’re going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and how I can keep my employees, myself and like, this neighborhood safe,” she added.

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Man arrested, charged in threat against store over mask policy