Hillsborough County prosecutors are charging a Dunkin’ Donuts employee with manslaughter after the worker delivered a fatal punch to an elderly customer who the employee says repeatedly used a racial slur against him.
The incident occurred on May 4, when 27-year-old Corey Pujols was working at the Dunkin’ Donuts on South 50th Street in Tampa, according to the prosecutor’s office.
While Pujols working, a 77-year-old man, noted as a regular customer at the store, began verbally berating the Dunkin’ staff in the drive thru, according to the prosecutor’s office. After being told to leave by staff, the man parked his car and entered the store. Pujols — the on-duty manager at the time — instructed one of his coworkers to call the police.
However, once inside, the customer began arguing with Pujols, who remained on the opposite side of the counter, according to the prosecutor’s office. The incident escalated when the customer called Pujols, who is Black, a racial slur.
Pujols then closer to the man, and warned him not to say the slur again. But, the man repeated the slur, and Pujols immediately punched him in the jaw, causing the elderly man to fall and hit his head. Three days later, the man died from his injuries.
Officials have yet to publicly name the victim.
The office chose the charge of manslaughter, it said, because Pujols committed an act where death was not intended, but occurred as a result.
The prosecutor’s office also said that while victim’s use of racial slurs was “highly inflammatory,” that type of speech alone does not justify violence.
“Although the victim’s speech was reprehensible, it was legal,” the office wrote in a statement. “While we find the victim’s words repulsive, public safety requires holding Pujols accountable for his actions. As in any case, we will consider the victim’s incendiary conduct and other mitigating evidence, as well as any evidentiary and legal issues, in determining the appropriate outcome.”
“Racism and the use of racial slurs have no place in our community,” the office continued. “Our office will continue to work with stakeholders all across Tampa Bay to combat bigotry and prejudice.”
Pujols is currently free on $15,000 bond.