Cleveland Police Department is standing behind charges against a 47-year-old man, David Strickland, of Cleveland, who was arrested on Black Friday at the Cleveland Walmart after he allegedly yelled at a store clerk when she asked him to wear a mask.
Capt. Scott Felts said that Strickland was not arrested for failing to wear a mask but for yelling at a store clerk and refusing to leave the store after being instructed to do so by a police officer who saw the verbal exchange.
“We are not enforcing mask mandates. We are enforcing the law on disorderly conduct,” Felts said.
Responding to rumors that Strickland is hearing impaired and could not hear the officer’s instructions to leave the store, Felts said that argument is bogus and surveillance video from the store proves it.
“The sergeant got in front of him and told him to leave, pointing to the door, and he said he was not leaving. He was not tackled from behind as it has been rumored. The guy never mentioned anything to the officer about being hearing impaired,” Felts said. “Had he told the clerk he had a medical condition that was aggravated by a mask, then this all might have gone differently, but he didn’t do that.”
Felts also addressed another issue that was raised about the Strickland’s military background.
“The sergeant who arrested him is a military veteran and his son also just returned from the military and is a police officer as well. This veteran stuff doesn’t hold any weight with me because it was a veteran arresting another veteran,” Felts said.
Cleveland Police Department charged Strickland with Resisting Arrest, Search or Transport. He is one of several people arrested or cited at the Cleveland Walmart on Black Friday, according to Felts, but most were related to arguments over discounted items in the store. No other cases regarded the lack of face masks.
“We are not the mask police,” Felts said. “People should understand though that private companies have the right to refuse service to people not wearing a mask. Walmart is encouraging masks but I haven’t seen them refuse service to anyone.”
Felts said that private companies are acting in their own rights if they choose to enforce a mask mandate and that it is never acceptable to bully or harass employees trying to enforce it.
“Speak politely to people in a calm manner and you’ll be okay. We’ve seen an uptick in situations where employees at stores are being harassed and threatened by frustrated citizens. The pandemic has heightened tensions,” Felts said. “Situations like this can quickly escalate when a person shouts at a store employee, and when a cop tells you to leave and you say you are not leaving, then understand that you are putting yourself in that situation.”
Strickland was transported to the Liberty County Jail after his arrest. He has since posted a $1,500 bond.