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Bexar County DA Cites Man In Confrontation With County Judge Wolff Over Mask Policy

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Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff shrugged off the incident.

Police cited a man who was suspected of slapping Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff's outstretched hand during a tense encounter at a San Antonio store.

On Thursday morning, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office said the suspect, Terry Toller, 47, had presented himself to authorities.

The sheriff's office reported Toller was arrested on a warrant for Assault-Peace Officer/Judge, a 2nd degree felony.

However, on Thursday afternoon, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales issued his own update: "At the request of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff," the statement explained, "that charge was rejected at magistration by the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Toller was issued a citation for disorderly [conduct] for using profanity in a public place."

The incident began Wednesday at the Lowe's hardware store at I-10 and Callaghan. According to a statement from the county judge’s office on Wednesday, Wolff came upon a confrontation between a cashier and Toller at a check-out stand.

At Wednesday night's COVID-19 briefing, Wolff explained the encounter from his perspective:

“You know, I was in the line, and I heard someone saying, 'you need to be wearing a mask' -- one of the employees -- and [the customer says] ‘I don’t have to.’ And the [cashier] said ‘Are we going to have to call 3-1-1?’ So I walked up there and said, ‘you need to be wearing a mask,’ and started to hand him my card, and you saw what happened.”

The statement said Wolff offered Toller his business card, who allegedly rejected the gesture.

The statement explained that Toller then left the store, but Wolff managed to get the license plate of his vehicle.

Wolff then used his cell phone to contact Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar to report the incident.

Gonzales explained that the "disorderly conduct charge is a Class C Misdemeanor. If this Defendant is found guilty, he faces a fine of up to $500."

The county judge said on Wednesday that he was only trying to help, and he seemed sympathetic.

“I thought he was having a very bad day,” Wolff said, referring to the suspect. “Knocked my hand down, but didn’t hurt me."

The encounter was captured on store security cameras.

Wolff added that city and county leaders are aware some people are angry about the mask order. But he emphasized the policy could save lives as a huge surge in cases continues across the city.

Wolff issued an official statement Thursday afternoon:

“I called the District Attorney early this morning and told him I did not want to pursue any sort of criminal complaint against Mr. Toller. I did not want this to be a distraction of our main focus of requiring businesses to have customers wear masks and continuing to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community. We are experiencing a drastic rise in cases and hospitalizations and it is my understanding that those numbers will go up exponentially today. We do not need any distractions from our mission to make sure this virus does not continue to spread within our community.”

Health officials reported 347 new cases on Wednesday, raising total cases since the outbreak began to 7,814. Four new deaths were reported, raising the total death toll to 104.

All businesses in the city and county are required to mandate masks for customers and employees. Businesses could be fined $1,000 for each violation.

Businesses in violation in San Antonio can be reported by calling 3-1-1. Businesses in violation in the county can be reported by calling 335-6000.

Across Texas, officials have so far reported more than 125,000 cases and more than 2,200 deaths.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

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