A Dunkin’ employee in Tampa, Florida, was sentenced to two years of house arrest for fatally punching a customer after being called a racial slur. The worker, Corey Pujols, 27, pleaded guilty to felony battery.
The judge ordered Pujols to complete 200 hours of community services and attend an anger management class.
Around 1:30 p.m. on May 4 at the Dunkin’ location at 410 South 50 Street, the incident occurred, police said.
The customer, Vonelle Cook, 77, who is White, had gone through the drive-thru to order coffee. Dunkin’ employees could not hear him while he was in the drive-thru. He became irate over the lack of service. Cook started to yell at the Dunkin’ employees about poor service.
Cook, a regular at the establishment, was told to leave by employees. Prosecutors said instead of going, he parked his car, walked inside, displayed aggressive behavior, and verbally abused the employees.
FOX 13 Tampa Bay reported Pujols asked a coworker to call the police, leading to an argument between him and Cook.
Cook called him a racial slur, police said, when Pujols, who is Black, asked Cook to leave. According to the station, Pujols then walked around the counter and asked Cook not to call him that slur again. Pujols punched him in the jaw when Cook repeated the slur.
Cook hit his head on the floor when he fell. He died at the hospital three days later from his injuries.
Cook suffered a skull fracture and brain contusions, an autopsy showed.
Following the incident, Pujols had initially been charged with aggravated manslaughter. According to FOX 13, prosecutors accepted a plea deal from Pujols, who agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of felony battery.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, said prosecutors, along with their decision, considered the “totality of the circumstances,” which did include Pujols’ lack of criminal history, his youth, and the fact Cook’s death was unintentional.
“Two of the primary factors were the aggressive approach the victim took toward the defendant and everyone working with the defendant, and that the victim repeatedly used possibly the most aggressive and offensive term in the English language,” Kamm said.
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