A Florida man was arrested following an incident at a Treasure Island restaurant for allegedly spitting on a child, Fox 13 Tampa Bay reported. The occurrence took place after the man reportedly approached a young boy and began to pester him about his choice to wear a mask in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Witnesses said that Jason Copenhaver, 47, approached the child’s table at Ricky T’s restaurant and asked about his mask before offering out his hand for a handshake. When the child refused, Copenhaver then purportedly grabbed the boy by his hand and got even closer before telling him that he now has coronavirus. According to the police report filed at the scene, the “victim stated that (Copenhaver) was in such close proximity that spit particles from (Copenhaver’s) mouth landed in his face.”
Copenhaver was taken into custody and charged with simple battery along with disorderly conduct. He was released after posting his $650 bail.
Restaurant employees were quick to jump in and intervene, asking the suspect to sit down, but not before one got into a physical altercation while attempting to subdue him. Employees claimed that Copenhaver approached one of their staff members in a “threatening manner and attempted to strike him twice.”
The staff noted that the suspect appeared intoxicated and was not wearing any shoes at the time of the incident.
While he claimed at the time to be a carrier of the virus, Copenhaver later reportedly told responding police officers that he did not actually know if he was infected or not, as he has never been tested.
Pinellas County, where Treasure Island is located, is currently under a mask mandate. The ordinance took effect back in June and requires adults over the age of 18 to wear a face covering while in public when social distancing is not possible. Minors under 18 are only “required to wear a face mask at the discretion of their parents.”
The incident was not the first mask-related dispute to make headlines in Florida since the outbreak of COVID-19. As The Inquisitr previously reported, authorities charged a man in Royal Palm Beach for brandishing a firearm inside a Walmart after being asked to put on a facial covering by another shopper. As of press time, the state has seen over 503,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as well as 7,626 deaths. These growing numbers come just a few months after Florida was praised by many for their relatively low number of cases compared to other states at the pandemic’s onset early this year.