/Fatal incident stemmed from face mask dispute
A 73-year-old man assaulted an employee at Easton's Valu-Mart on the morning of July 15 after the employee requested he wear a face mask to enter the store. The man was later shot by members of the Haliburton Highlands OPP and the SIU is investigating. /DARREN LUM Stafff

Fatal incident stemmed from face mask dispute

By Chad Ingram

A 73-year-old man is dead and theOntario Special Investigations Unit is investigating after a disputethat began when the man assaulted an employee at Easton's Valu-Martin Minden on the morning of July 15 after the employee requestedthat he put on a face mask to enter the grocery store.

“What we're doing is giving out freemasks if you don't have one” store owner Linda Easton told the Times . The health unit has mandated that face masks be worninside businesses and indoor public spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Easton explained she hasan employee who's responsible for greeting people at the storeentrance providing face masks to those without them and sanitizingcarts.

“The guy just didn't want to wear amask” Easton said. “ . . . He just started pounding on myemployee.”

“My staff got together and tried toescort him out the door” Easton said explaining the police werecalled following the assault the OPP receiving that call at8:19 a.m.

“He was speeding away and hit atruck turning it sideways” Easton said adding the man alsoattempted to run down store employees with his vehicle and crashedinto the side of the store before speeding off on Highway 35.

According to the SIU an officerfollowed the man's vehicle for a short period of time and then basedon his licence plate number officers then made their way to hisresidence on Indian Point Road near Drag Lake.

“Outside the residence there was aninteraction with the man and two officers discharged their firearms”reads a press release from the SIU. “The man was struck. He wastransported to hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 11:47a.m.”

On July 16 the SIU confirmed investigators had collected firearms along with those of OPP officers at the scene.

"The scene was searched yesterday and those efforts will continue today" a press release reads. "From the scene a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol were collected. The firearms of two police officers were also secured."

A post-mortem examination will be conducted on the morning of July 17 and the SIU is continuing to attempt to locate the man's next of kin.

“The OPP has notified the province's Special Investigations Unit(SIU) and they have invoked their mandate” reads a press releasefrom the OPP that was sent out the evening of July 15. “As aresult the OPP will not be able to provide any further information.”

Easton thanked the OPP for their response to the call and paidhomage to her employees as well as all grocery store workers.

“All I want to say I want to give credit to my staff who werevery competent in handling the situation” she said. “They werethe real heroes in this situation. I want to give credit to allgrocery store workers who are faced with interactions every day withchallenging people.”

She also noted the tragedy of the situation and that a life hadbeen lost.

Four investigators and two forensic investigators from the SIUhave been assigned to the case. The SIU investigates incidentsinvolving police where there has been death serious injury orallegations of sexual assault.

“The SIU is urging anyone who may have information about thisinvestigation to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529”reads a release from the agency. “The Unit is also urging anyonewho may have any video evidence related to this incident to uploadthat video through the SIU website.”