A Black manager at a Dunkin’ in Florida who fatally punched an elderly, white customer who called him the N-word will not spend any time behind bars, and instead will serve two years of house arrest as part of his guilty plea.
Frustrated with the service at one of the donut store’s Tampa locations, Vonelle Cook, 77, marched into the store and berated the manager, calling him the N-word, police said.
The manager, 27-year-old Corey Pujols, who is Black, asked Cook not to say it again.
When Cook decided to call him the N-word a second time, Pujols hit him in the jaw. The older man became unconscious, falling backwards and hitting his head on the floor. He was dead three days later, according to Fox13.
Pujols had originally been charged with aggravated manslaughter following the May 5, 2021 incident.
Prosecutors accepted a plea deal from the donut shop manager, who agreed to change his plea to guilty for a lesser charge of felony battery in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
On Monday a judge decided Pujols would serve two years of house arrest, complete 200 hours of community service and attend an anger management course.
Florida investigators said Cook had initially gone through the drive-thru, but was so angered about the lack of service he parked his car and entered the store to complain. Employees knew Cook as a frequent customer who was ‘regularly troublesome and abusive,’ according to a release from the State Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said it was important there were consequences for Pujols’ actions, but also took into account Cook’s abusive behavior and ‘very troublesome criminal history,’ which included prison time.
They claimed this combination of factors made Cook an ‘unsympathetic victim.’
‘This outcome holds the defendant accountable while taking into account the totality of the circumstances—the aggressive approach and despicable racial slur used by the victim, along with the defendant’s age, lack of criminal record, and lack of intent to cause the victim’s death,’ Grayson Kamm, a spokesperson for the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, told Fox13.
According to the autopsy report, Cook suffered a skull fracture and brain contusions from the fall. After he fell and became unconscious in Dunkin’, Tampa Fire Rescue transported him to an area hospital, where he died three days later.
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