League City Stabbing

League City Police Chief Gary Ratliff speaks Thursday, March 18, 2021, at a press conference regarding a stabbing at a Jack in the Box restaurant in League City on Wednesday night. An arrest warrant has been issued for suspect James Schulz, who is believed to be a transient. Schulz is alleged to have stabbed a manager at the restaurant after the manager requested he wear a face mask in accordance with store policy.

Near the end of a hastily assembled press conference Thursday about a face-mask dispute that ended with a restaurant worker being stabbed, Police Chief Gary Ratliff almost pleaded with residents to follow rules businesses set or just take their business elsewhere.

Ratliff cautioned residents that police would charge people who refused to mask up or leave businesses with criminal trespass.

But it shouldn’t ever have to go that far, a tired Ratliff, called in from vacation on short notice, said.

“It’s just a very polarizing situation where some folks don’t believe that there should be masks and others do,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff’s call for de-escalation came as violent encounters over mask-wearing appear to be on the rise across the state and nation.

Although stabbings and shootings connected to the mask debate date back to the beginning of mask mandates, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to revoke a requirement to wear face coverings in public places might aggravate a bad situation, said Wendy Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University.

“Decisions by public leaders to lift mandates can have an important symbolic effect,” Parmet said. “Lifting the mandate messages that masks aren’t necessary.”

NEW ONUS

And people angry about having to wear masks can now blame local businesses and, by extension, employees charged with enforcing store rules, instead of the government, Parmet said.

“Thus, businesses are now forced to face the brunt of anger over masking,” she said. “This puts business owners and their employees in a terrible bind. They want to keep customers, and themselves, safe. But other customers are blaming them for mask requirements.”

Abbott on March 10 lifted statewide mandates requiring masks in public places but emphasized that businesses could decide on their own pandemic rules about requiring masks on their premises.

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey on Friday echoed many of Ratliff’s words, expressing disappointment at the fever pitch people have reached over mask- wearing.

AVOIDING VIOLENCE

Conflict over mask- wearing has become common enough that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September issued guidance about how to avoid workplace violence associated with COVID-19 prevention policies.

The guidance calls on businesses to clearly post pandemic-related policies, provide employee training on threat recognition and conflict resolution, install additional security systems and provide options to customers that minimize contact, among other guidelines.

Wendy Morgan, who owns The Admiralty, 2221 Strand St. in Galveston, was so concerned about possible encounters with customers after Abbott’s decision, she considered hiring security for her businesses, she said.

“It’s horrifying to me that some people feel so strongly about a piece of cloth,” she said.

Most people have been happy to comply with store policy requiring masks, however, she said. Employees have only had to ask about two people to leave.

While those customers haven’t been happy, they’ve left peacefully, Morgan said.

SUSPECT SOUGHT

League City police still were searching Friday for James Henry Schulz, 53, in connection to the stabbing of a shift manager at Jack in the Box late Wednesday, Ratliff said.

An arrest warrant has been issued charging Schulz with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Ratliff said. His bond is set at $40,000.

Schulz is accused of refusing to cooperate with store policy requiring him to wear a face mask as part of pandemic protocols, police said. Police accuse Schulz of confronting employees and then attacking the manager with a pocketknife.

Video of the incident shows the manager holding up a sign with store protocol on it as the suspect walks out of the store, before quickly returning while the manager is facing away and attacking him.

Schulz accused Jack in the Box employees of refusing to serve him because he was homeless, Ratliff said.

Schulz also recorded the exchange on his cell phone and told employees they would be hearing from his attorney, Ratliff said.

The manager suffered three stab wounds in the arm and upper torso, police said. He was transported to a hospital, treated and released.

Calls to the Jack in the Box seeking comment went unreturned Friday.

FREQUENT FLOUTER

The incident was the first time in Ratliff’s memory that police officers were called in response to a mask-related issue, Ratliff said.

But it wasn’t the first in the county recently.

Texas City police Wednesday arrested a woman who Galveston police had the week before forcibly removed from a bank for refusing to wear a mask.

Terry Lynn Wright, 65, was arrested on two outstanding warrants after police were called to the Office Depot in Texas City about a woman refusing to wear a mask in the building or leave, police said.

Officers recognized Wright from news of the similar incident in Galveston, Texas City police said. Wright was arrested on Galveston warrants for trespassing and resisting arrest, police said. She was taken into custody without incident, police said.

Wright was not charged for trespassing at the office supply store, police said.

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

Despite the recent incidents, League City Councilman Hank Dugie, chairman of the Galveston County COVID-19 Business Taskforce, on Friday said he agreed with Abbott’s decision to remove the statewide mask mandate.

“I think people should have the ability to make decisions for themselves,” Dugie said.

Dugie was one of six councilmen in League City who voted to reverse a decision city administrators made requiring masks in city facilities after the statewide order ended.

Dugie on Friday blamed disputes between customers and business owners on unclear communication about the consequences of bad actors.

“We need to have the police department communicate to businesses and let them know they will enforce criminal trespass,” Dugie said. “Any issue you have with a customer, give police a call.”

Galveston County residents live in a world full mostly of good people, but a handful of bad actors, Dugie said.

It’s all the community’s job to rally behind businesses, no matter what policies they follow, Dugie said.

“You can’t completely eliminate something like this,” Dugie said. “But you can enforce consequences and, as a community, be there for businesses. And let them know that these cases will not be tolerated.”

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com.

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(10) comments

Bailey Jones

This is so unnecessarily boneheaded and ignorant. Stores have the right to make rules about how they want to do business. Customers should be capable of showing simple consideration for business owners and their employees by following those rules. If you don't like the rules, take your ignorant self somewhere else.

Gary Miller

Bailey> Correct for today. Many, perhaps most people question the value of masks. Abbott gave us the right to wear or not but gave individual businesses the authority to require masks. Observe the business rules. No shoes or shirts no service has long been observed with little problems. No mask no service may be a dumb rule but is the business rule that should be observed. Don't like it? Shop elsewhere.

Bailey Jones

[thumbup]

Carlos Ponce

I shopped in WalMart (La Marque) yesterday. About a third of the customers were not wearing masks. No one freaked out.

Raymond Lewis

I shopped at Wal Mart Galveston yesterday and 'everyone' (even the spring breakers) were wearing mask. No one freaked out.

Carlos Ponce

Being "freaked" is common in Spring Breakers.

Gary Miller

Raymond>Walmart is mask free if you want but mask wearers are welcome.

Jack Cross

Several of you said, business have the right to set their own rules, that is misleading, these rules would normally violate freedom. It is the Governor with an executive order that gave business this authority. But, i think everyone is missing the point about masks. Its not the businesses who most people are angry at, Like Mr. Lewis said, most people wear the masks in these stores. People today are having massive protests all over the world because of the crazy standards where American citizens are required to wear mask, social distance and quarantine, people are fighting store owners, kids out of school, people out of work and then illegals are invited in by Biden (check it out ) no mask, on social distancing, and many carrying the virus and other diseases. Then people are sitting next to each other on air plans.

Look at spring break crowds , look at the fence around the Capital and all the National Guard, get real folks, this is about power and cancel culture. none of this would be possible without using fear and Corona -19 that is 99 percent curable to all but the elderly and most of them with pre existing conditions. By the way, if this mask thing is not lifted soon, things are going to get much much worse. .

We waited for the vaccine to protect us like they said it would, now those same people say we still have to were the mask, come on.

John Mittelsted

Jack, although I'm not for the mask, you are incorrect on the business rules. Businesses can establish any rule they want and if you don't follow them you may not be served and could be charged with trespass if you refuse to leave. example: must wear a jacket, or tie, or no ball caps in clubs but you can wear a cowboy hat, or no collars no entry, no shirt/shoes no service, etc.

The freedom you have in a business is to enter or not. Beyond that, you follow their rules regardless of whether you agree or not. It's like a child in the parents home....

Gary Miller

Only a fool fights the propriters rules. Just try to violate the dress code on a private golf course. Shirts with collar. Jacket and tye required at 5 star resturant. No shirt or shoes no service. Smart people know the rules and comply or don't go.

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