Coronavirus: 2 customers brawl with Target employee over refusal to wear masks

VAN NUYS, California — Two men are accused of assaulting an employee at a Target store in California earlier this month after a confrontation over face coverings, authorities said.

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Phillip Hamilton, 31, and Paul Hamilton, 29, were both arrested on felony battery charges in the May 1 incident, according to jail records. They were initially held in lieu of $50,000 bail but were released from custody Tuesday, KTLA reported.

The men were not wearing face coverings when they entered the store in Van Nuys, the Los Angeles Times reported. When the Hamiltons refused to put on masks, an employee attempted to escort them out of the store, the newspaper reported.

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“As they approached the exit, one of the suspects suddenly and without provocation turned and punched the store employee, causing him and the suspect to fall to the floor,” Officer Drake Madison, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department, told the newspaper.

The second customer also joined in the brawl, struggling with two other Target employees, according to a store surveillance camera.

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The first employee broke his left arm during the scuffle, KTLA reported.

A spokesman for Target called the incident “unfortunate” and said in a statement that the company’s top priority was the safety of its customers and employees.

“We’re grateful for the support of local police and we’ll provide any information that can be helpful to their investigation,” the statement said.

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“Please, if you’re going into a retail establishment, listen to the rules that they’re asking you to follow,” Lt. Jim Gavin told KTLA. “Don’t confront people. Don’t confront people out on the street. Allow law enforcement and health officials to enforce the mask requirement.”