Florida Dunkin' Employee Who Fatally Punched Customer Who Called Him the N-Word Gets House Arrest
Corey Pujols punched the man after he refused to leave the store and twice called him the N-word, police said.
A Black Florida Dunkin' worker who fatally punched a white man who twice called him a racial slur has pleaded guilty to felony battery and sentenced to two years of house arrest.
Corey Pujols, 27, must also complete 200 hours of community service and attend an anger management course, under a plea agreement with Tampa prosecutors.
Prosecutors considered "totality of the circumstances," including Pujols' age, his lack of a criminal history and the fact that he didn't mean to kill Vonnelle Cook, 77, according to Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Warren said he also considered Cook's aggressive behavior and the words he used.
Pujols was originally charged with manslaughter.
He was working at Tampa Dunkin' on May 5, 2021 when Cook tried to order coffee at the restaurant’s drive-thru, according to authorities. Cook became upset when employees said they couldn't hear him, then came inside the restaurant, complaining about customer service, investigators said.
Workers said Cook was a frequent customer who was “regularly troublesome and abusive,” according to a press release from the prosecutor's office.
Pujols asked Cook to leave, and the elderly man called him the N-word, authorities said. Pujols came from behind the counter and told Cook not to use the racial slur again. When Cook repeated it, Pujols punched him in the jaw, sending the man to the ground, where he hit his head, prosecutors said.
Cook was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died three days later. An autopsy showed his skull was fractured and he sustained brain bruising.
“Two of the primary factors were the aggressive approach the victim took toward the defendant and everyone working with the defendant, and that the victim repeatedly used possibly the most aggressive and offensive term in the English language,” Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Cook was a registered sex offender who had convictions for child pornography, unlawful sex with a minor and child abuse.
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