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Police: Florida man coughs on, slaps employee after being asked to leave for refusing to wear a mask

Police say he also hit another customer and threatened to burn the business down.
Credit: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

LARGO, Fla. — A Florida man is behind bars after a mask dispute in an Ace Hardware store, police say.

The Largo Police Department arrested 51-year-old Russell Wood on Tuesday after officers say he coughed on and slapped an employee who asked him to leave.

An arrest report claims he refused to wear a mask. 

Police say Wood coughed in the employee's face and used the backside of his had to slap them. The employee then pushed Wood in self-defense, according to an arrest report.

Officers say he then hit another customer in the face while being ushered out of the business. He also is accused of threatening to burn down the business before taking off from the store. 

A while after, the Largo Police Department was able to track Wood down and arrest him on one charge of simple battery. 

The entire incident was caught on surveillance video. Wood claimed he was defending himself during the incident, according to an affidavit. 

As of Wednesday night, Wood remains in the Pinellas County Jail with a bond set for $250.

There have been several instances across the county of retail employees getting injured or even killed while dealing with customers who refuse to follow mask orders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance to businesses, advising their workers not to engage with anti-mask customers in an effort to avoid workplace violence.

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