Mask rules have created tension in stores.
  • An Atlanta grocery store worker was shot dead after an argument with a customer about a face mask.
  • Local authorities did not confirm the store's mask policy.
  • Experts say retail workers are being forced to act as "mask police."
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

An Atlanta, Georgia, grocery-store worker was shot dead Monday after a mask dispute with a customer, The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said.

Preliminary information suggested the customer left the store without making a purchase after getting into an argument about his face mask with the cashier, the GBI said. The customer returned and shot the cashier, the GBI said.

The cashier was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, the GBI said.

The customer also shot the security guard in the store, who is a reserve deputy officer for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office in Atlanta, the GBI said. Another cashier was also wounded, the GBI said.

In a press conference, DeKalb County Sheriff Melody Maddox said the officer was in a stable condition and was being treated at Atlanta Medical Center. He was reportedly wearing a bulletproof vest at the time.

The shooter, who was arrested at the scene, was also in a stable condition and was being treated at another Atlanta hospital, according to the GBI statement.

Sheriff Maddox said that she did not know what the store's policy was on masks, but said that it would be up to the store to decide if masks were mandatory or not.

Maddox said that she understood the topic of face masks was "very sensitive at this time."

"We just want to make sure that everyone is safe," she said.

Critics say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent relaxing of rules around wearing masks in indoor and outdoor spaces has made it even more difficult for retail workers, who have to act as "mask police" to enforce rules.

Many have faced aggressive customers because of this.

"Essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local Covid safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?" Marc Perrone, president of The United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW), said in a statement emailed to Insider last month.

Business owners are in a "horrible situation," Larry Barton, a professor of crisis management and public safety at the University of Central Florida, told Insider. "The business owner is expected to be referee, pseudo police, and mask enforcer, just as they're trying to rebuild rapport with customers," he said.

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