The victim of an alleged battery in May caught on video at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiú hopes the whole affair will at least get more people to wear masks in public as required under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order.
Peggy Baker, 70, of Abiquiú, said she went to the store the evening of May 23, and noticed there was a sign on the door stating face masks were required to enter.
She later told New Mexico State Police Officer Wyatt Harwell several people were not wearing face masks when she entered the store.
As she was in line to check out, she told the woman ahead of her, who is not identified in the report, “You know it is illegal not to be wearing a mask,” the report states.
When Baker was leaving the store, the same woman she told about the masks, allegedly confronted Baker.
Upon doing so, the woman allegedly punched Baker in her nose and left.
On May 27, Harwell spoke with Andrea Romero, the manager on duty.
After the owner notified Romero of the incident, she reviewed the store’s security camera video along with Harwell. The police report does not state whether the unnamed woman in question is wearing a mask in the video.
According to the report, the video shows the woman stiff-arm Baker in the face with an open hand, push Baker, then walk out of the store.
Harwell wrote in the report that based on the body language he observed between Baker and the other woman and based on Baker’s testimony, he believed the other woman unlawfully struck Baker in a rude, angry, or insolent manner, constituting a battery offense.
However, no charges will be filed unless the identity of the woman who battered Baker is learned, the report states.
Regardless of the allegations, the New Mexico COVID-Safe Practices for Individuals and Employers document published June 11 requires people to wear masks or face coverings in public “except when eating, drinking or exercising, or unless otherwise advised by a health care provider.” It also requires retail and grocery stores to encourage customers to wear face coverings.
The document also states the best practices for employers is to “appoint a COVID-Safe Practice leader or team to enact safe practices in the workplace.”
Harwell said he spoke to Romero about the current public health order issued by the state. Romero told him she would like a copy of it given to the store so the owner can review it.
He also spoke to Romero about the approaches the store could take if customers are attempting to help enforce or educate others about the requirement to wear face masks.
“I am 70 years old (and) it has become clear to me nobody is going to care more about enforcing the COVID protections than the people who are at risk,” Baker said.
Baker said the woman then left in a gray four-door vehicle, which she was unsure of the make but had a New Mexico license plate.
Harwell said he conducted an inquiry on the license plate number that Baker provided and it returned to what Baker described.
Harwell then sent the photo portion to Baker and he asked her if it was the same person who had hit her.
Baker said she is 80 percent sure it was the same person.
However, Harwell told Baker that he would not pursue charges unless she was certain it was the correct person.
Romero told Harwell she was not at the store when the incident occurred but was familiar with it and said the store owner was contacted by Baker.
Harwell asked Romero if the store knew the woman who hit Baker or if a receipt or transaction record could have her name on it.
Romero said the store’s payment technology did not keep names of customers.
No one should be punched in the face for addressing those who are not wearing a mask, Baker said.
“I encourage people to take responsibility, because if no one does, who will?” she said.