Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, 79, was assaulted in San Antonio, Texas, by a customer refusing to wear a mask at a Lowe’s shopping center on June 24, 2020, as first reported by News4SA. Journalist Emily Baucum tweeted that Wolff was “assaulted at a local store while trying to help a cashier who told a customer to wear a mask,” and that Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.
Wolff had issued an executive order on June 17 directing “all people 10 years or older [to] wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in a public place where it is difficult to keep
six feet away from other people.”
Mariah Medina, an investigative reporter for KENS5, tweeted that Wolff, a Democrat, who previously served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1971 to 1973 and worked in the Texas Senate from 1973 to 1975, was assaulted “after he tried to intervene between a cashier who asked a customer to wear a mask, a county official confirmed.”
Wolff was shopping at the Lowe’s store located on Interstate 10 and Callaghan Road in San Antonio and was in the checkout line when the incident occurred. A spokesperson for the county told Medina “that the customer started berating the cashier,” which prompted Wolff to intervene and try to explain the local order of required masks to the customer. Bexar County Public Information Officer Monica Ramos told the San Antonio Express-News the judge tried to give the man his business card so the man could call him later to discuss the June 17 mandate. “When Wolff went to give the irate customer his business card, the customer smacked it out of his hand,” Medina said.
KSAT reported that “the man knew exactly who Wolff was, knew exactly what he was being asked to do and had decided he wasn’t going to comply.”
According to Medina, “Wolff called the sheriff, and the BCSO is now at the Lowe’s. It’s unclear if the customer will face charges. Judge Wolff did get his license plate number and gave it to authorities.”
KSAT reported that Bexar County determined the man’s identity and has issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of assaulting a public servant, a third-degree felony. He had not been arrested as of Wednesday night, according to KSAT.
Judge Wolff Mandated That People Not Wearing a Mask in Public Can Be Fined $1,000
On June 17, Wolff issued an executive order requiring residents to wear masks when they’re unable to practice social distancing. He also mandated that businesses require employees and customers to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible, a move that was supported by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, according to the Texas Tribune.
Bexar County businesses could face a $1,000 fine for failure to follow the face mask requirement, but, according to Abbott’s policy, no penalties can be enforced on individuals who fail to wear a face covering, the Statesman reported.
Not everyone supports Wolff’s mandate. The National Federation of Independent Business’ state director Annie Spilman worried about the devastating effects this could have on the Texas economy. “Orders like Judge Wolff’s put owners in the difficult position of policing their customers while trying to reopen and rebuild their businesses,” she said in a statement to the Statesman.
Texas first lifted its stay-at-home order in May, and Abbott was one of the first governors to start reopening his state, CNN reported. Wolff has vocally objected to Abbott’s reopening plan without also requiring face masks since April, according to News4SA.
Texas Has Seen a Record Spike in COVID-19 Patients & Hospitalizations in the Past Week
While Abbott announced in early June that Texas could start entering Phase 3 of its reopening — which allows restaurants, businesses, gyms, and bars to operate at 50% capacity — by June 23 he reversed course, strongly urging Texas residents to stay home after the number of coronavirus patients spiked and hospital beds neared capacity, the Texas Tribune reported. According to the Texas state data, Texas reported 120,000 COVID-19 cases as of June 23 and a death toll at 2,200. With more than 5,000 new positive tests each day recently, Abbott told CBS News that Texas is experiencing a “massive outbreak.”
One day prior, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement that “hospitalizations are rising at their fastest rate yet.”
On June 23, Abbott told KBTX-TV, “First, we want to make sure that everyone reinforces the best safe practices of wearing a mask, hand sanitization, maintaining a safe distance, but importantly, because the spread is so rampant right now, there’s never a reason for you to have to leave your home. Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home.”
This statement came a day after Abbott said he would not be shutting down Texas again due to COVID-19 concerns.
On June 22, Abbott said during a press conference, “Closing down Texas again will always be the last option. “We don’t have to choose between jobs and health. We can have both. We can protect Texan lives while also restoring livelihoods. … Together, we will keep Texas wide open for business.”