A sheriff’s deputy in St. Louis, Missouri, is recovering from being punched and struck with her own baton on Christmas Day after telling a woman she needed to wear a mask inside a gas station. Police have released surveillance footage of the suspect from inside the store and have asked for help to identify her.
The case has attracted attention beyond St. Louis because a witness recorded the assault and shared the footage on social media. A clip that has circulated online shows the moment the suspect grabbed the deputy’s baton and hit her over the head with it as the deputy tried to get back on her feet.
Here’s what you need to know:
Police Say the Woman Became ‘Belligerent’ After the Deputy Told Her She Couldn’t Enter the Store Without a Mask
The violent confrontation happened at a Shell gas station on North Tucker Boulevard just before midnight on December 25. According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the 59-year-old deputy was working security at the gas station that night.
The suspect walked into the store without a mask. The deputy said she told the woman she needed to wear a face-covering in order to enter the store. Business owners in St. Louis are required to enforce mask-wearing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Surveillance video released by the police department shows that the suspect did, in fact, have a mask in her hand and she appeared to put it on as she turned to walk down a store aisle. The store footage does not include audio.
No video has been released of what the deputy said happened next. She said the suspect “became belligerent” over being instructed to put a mask on. The deputy said the woman shoved her as she left the store and then continued to punch the deputy “with a closed fist.” Police said the suspect then grabbed the deputy’s baton and struck her with it, which caused a concussion.
Police described the suspect as a Black woman who was about 6’1″ tall and weighed between 190 to 200 pounds. She was wearing a black 3/4 length coat, a dark shirt and black pants at the time of the assault. Police noted her straight black hair was possibly a wig. Anyone with information was asked to call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477) or a 4th District Detective at 314-444-2500.
The Suspect Hit the Deputy With the Baton While She Was on the Ground
It’s unclear who filmed the confrontation outside the Shell gas station but the footage has been reposted and shared on Twitter and Facebook. The 1:33 clip begins with the deputy already down on the ground as the suspect punches her. The suspect then grabs the deputy’s baton and is seen swinging it down as the deputy tries to stand up. Two men intervene at that point and one of them appears to wrestle the baton away from the suspect.
The woman turns and walks back toward the gas pumps. The deputy manages to get back on her feet and follow the suspect. About 40 seconds later, the deputy and the woman are seen arguing next to a red vehicle.
A man hands the deputy her baton as the suspect got in the passenger seat. The deputy proceeds to smack the suspect with the baton several times while the suspect grabs onto the suspect’s head with her hands. The suspect eventually pushes the deputy back and closes the door. The deputy tries to open the door but it had been locked. The red vehicle left the scene.
The St. Louis Sheriff Praised the Deputy & Said the Incident Was an Example of the Danger Law Enforcement Officers Face Daily
According to the St. Louis Police, emergency medical responders were called to the gas station but the deputy declined medical attention. In a statement to local outlets KSDK-TV and KMOV-TV, St. Louis Sheriff Vernon Betts offered reassurance that despite suffering head injuries, the deputy was expected to be ok. He praised her and said she “performed admirably while injured and under duress.”
Betts added that the Christmas Day incident served as an example of the danger his deputies face while on the job. “This individual made a serious mistake and we are working with the St. Louis Police Department to apprehend and bring charges against this attacker.” The sheriff also reminded community members to keep wearing masks while in public while the pandemic continues.