Laquitta Willis has been identified as the grocery store cashier who was shot and killed during a mask dispute on June 14. The shooting happened at a Big Bear store in Decatur, Georgia.
Victor Lee Tucker, Jr. faces murder and aggravated assault charges. Heavy has since learned that, according to online court records, Tucker has previously pleaded guilty in past cases to charges including battery, cruelty to children and illegally carrying a concealed weapon.
Willis had worked at Big Bear for about a decade before she was killed, according to a GoFundMe campaign launched by her sister.
Here’s what you need to know:
Willis Was Shot in the Head After Asking a Customer to Pull Up His Mask
The city of Decatur, Georgia, still has a mask mandate in effect. According to the city website, the ordinance is scheduled to expire on June 21. People are required to wear masks in public places including grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, office buildings and other retail establishments.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Tucker got into an argument with a Big Bear cashier, now identified as Willis, over masks in the checkout line. Investigators said Tucker briefly left the store without buying his items. They said he returned moments later with a handgun and shot Willis.
The store owner provided more detail to WXIA-TV. Without identifying Tucker by name, the owner said the gunman had a mask. But he apparently was not wearing it properly. The owner said Willis asked the man to pull the mask up over his face.
WGCL-TV, citing the police, reported Willis informed Tucker about the store’s policy about masks. The outlet added that, according to police, Willis was shot in the head. Investigators said Willis was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Tributes Have Poured in for Willis & a Memorial Was Set Up Outside the Grocery Store
A memorial for Willis was set up outside the Big Bear grocery store. Well-wishers and mourners left flowers, candles, balloons and notes in her memory, according to video shared by WXIA-TV.
Willis’ sister, Alexis Breland, set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for funeral costs. Breland wrote that Willis was also survived by her mother, a niece and “a host of loving family and friends.” As of this writing, hundreds of donors had contributed more than $11,000.
Breland told WGCL-TV she had always looked up to Willis as a second mother figure. She said Willis helped to support her through college. “Just loving, funny, she was quiet at times but once you got to know her, just an amazing person,” Breland said. “A dependable person, you always have in your corner.” Breland also described Willis as the type of person who did what she could to protect others. Breland said that’s what Willis was doing when she asked the gunman to pull up his mask.
The store owner described Willis to WXIA-TV as a “kind, loving human being.” Customer Helene Mapp described the shooting to WSB-TV as devastating and said everyone loved Willis. “Every one of these ladies up here real sweet. Real sweet ladies, man, and it really don’t make any sense, you know what I mean? Senseless.”
Former Big Bear employee Dora Crawford told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the supermarket workers loved each other like family and that she worked with Willis for one year. “I looked up to [Willis] as management. She worked customer service, she trained cashiers and everything. She’s just a good person all around.”
A Workers Union Says Government Leaders Need to do More to Protect Essential Workers Like Willis
The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents food and retail workers, says more should have been done to protect Willis. UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued the following statement after the Big Bear shooting:
For too long, many of our leaders have failed to consider how the changing COVID guidelines affect America’s essential workers who face daily exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks. When workers are forced to play mask and vaccination police, they put their lives at risk. This has now resulted in the heartbreaking murder of an innocent grocery store cashier who was simply doing her job.
Our country must do more to acknowledge the real and present dangers these workers continue to face on the front lines of the pandemic. As the union for essential food and retail workers, the UFCW is calling on leaders to address the safety threats and concerns of essential workers and act promptly to ensure that these workers and the communities they serve will be protected.