Mask policy leads to alleged scuffle in Nisswa
A Nisswa business owner says she was physically assaulted over a customer refusing to wear a mask.
Bracha Naor, owner of B’s Factory Outlet, said she was pushed and kicked to the ground after she and an employee confronted a customer who took his mask off after entering her store Monday, Aug. 3.
Gov. Tim Walz mandated face coverings be worn in all public places beginning July 25 to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
When the customer refused both to put his mask back on and to get out of the store, Naor said she began spraying disinfectant in his vicinity to protect the rest of her customers, including an older woman who was standing nearby. The customer eventually left but came back later with his mother and some others, Naor said, none of whom were wearing masks. Naor said the mother wanted to know what Naor sprayed on her son, and Naor said she would have shown her but she refused to put a mask on.
The store owner said she then picked up a Taser to protect herself and her store but did not end up using it, as it was not charged. She claimed the disgruntled customer, however, tried to use the device on her. Naor said she was then pushed into one of her displays, breaking a lot of merchandise. She said the argument continued outside and she was again pushed and kicked to the ground by a group of people who came back with the customer.
Naor, 61, said Monday her whole body hurt and noted she had back surgery a couple months ago, which already made it difficult for her to be on her feet for long periods of time.
She said the worst part of everything is the police do not seem to believe her story and did not arrest anyone involved, even though they should be in place to protect her. She further added the police told her if they were going to arrest anyone, it would be her because she pulled out a Taser.
Employee Shalanaree Thatcher witnessed the incident inside the store and backed up much of Naor’s account. Thatcher said she was scared the customer was going to hit her when he got up in her face after she told him he had to put his mask back on.
Thatcher said Naor takes every precaution to keep her store safe, especially after her recent surgeries and because of Thatcher’s asthma.
When the customer came back to the store, Thatcher said she witnessed the customer push Naor into a display in the store. Thatcher’s boyfriend, Syrus Besler, was stationed near the front door, assisting customers with putting hand sanitizer on when they entered the store. He said he witnessed someone push Naor to the ground again when the argument continued outside. After that, he said the group of people cornered Naor, and he could no longer see what was happening but could hear them yelling at her.
Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor was reluctant to comment on specifics of the situation, as he said he did not like how Naor handled the situation by calling the Brainerd Dispatch, and he did not want to get in the middle of a mask debate or openly debate the case in public. He noted Naor’s account may not have been entirely truthful regarding what happened with the Taser.
Taylor said when the police department finished writing up the reports, they will send it to the county prosecutor to review and file any charges.
Regarding the wearing of masks, Taylor said: “If someone asks you to put on a mask in a store, put it on. If the person refuses, then you call the police. You don’t fight, you don’t argue. Just call the police, and let the police handle it. Don’t let it develop into a conflict over a stupid mask.”
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .