ROEBUCK, Ala. — An unidentified woman who was body-slammed by an off-duty police officer Tuesday in an Alabama Walmart faces multiple charges, police say, in an incident they said may have been sparked over her refusal to wear a mask.
In three cell phone videos posted to Facebook, the woman is seen arguing with the officer as he attempts to detain her. The officer was off-duty at the time, working as a security guard at the Walmart. As of Saturday, the three videos have about 200,000 views combined.
After a brief struggle, the officer lifts the woman up and drops her to the ground.
The incident may reflect the ongoing debate over wearing face masks to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Though the practice is advocated by health professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — particularly in crowded places where social distancing is difficult — many people, for various reasons, have resisted.
Police say woman grew disorderly after associate asked about a mask
A preliminary investigation revealed that a Walmart associate requested the woman put on a mask before entering the store, but she grew disorderly, according to a video statement posted to the Birmingham Police Department’s Facebook page.
The officer was alerted to the situation when he heard the woman yelling obscenities to customers and employees, the department said.
Police said the woman was asked to leave the store, but she refused. When the officer moved to detain her, she resisted, leading them to use the “take-down” method, the department said.
Though the video shows the woman fall to the ground, police said she was unharmed. Subsequent videos posted to Facebook show the woman with no apparent injuries. She also refused medical evaluation, the department said.
The woman has been charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, third-degree criminal trespassing, possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, the department said in the video.
It wasn’t clear if she was jailed, or if she has representation.
An eyewitness who posted the videos of the incident to Facebook said in comments beneath the post that the woman was asked to put on a mask by a store employee and refused, cursing out the employee after she was asked to leave.
She said the officer intervened later.
Though employees at Walmart are required to wear face masks, customers are only encouraged to do so, according to the company’s website.
“Although most state and local governments do not mandate the use of face coverings in public settings, the CDC has reported that recent studies show a significant portion of individuals with the virus lack symptoms and can transmit the virus,” said Walmart CEO John Furner in the memo to US employees. “With this knowledge, we believe it is simply in everyone’s best interest to use masks or face coverings to curb the spread of this disease.”
CNN reached out to Walmart for comment about the incident, but the company deferred to the local police.
The City of Birmingham instituted a face covering ordinance effective May 1, requiring anyone “interacting with persons who are not part of your household” cover their nose and mouth. It’s punishable by a fine of $500 or 30 days in jail, but police said they simply hoped to educate people.