A Black man has been charged with manslaughter for fatally punching an elderly man 50 years his senior who used a racist slur that prompted the violence earlier this month in central Florida.
Corey Pujols, who is Black, was working as a store manager at a Dunkin Donuts in Tampa on May 4 when the unidentified 77-year-old customer reportedly took umbrage at the quality of service in the drive-thru. After employees refused the customer service and asked him to leave, he parked his car and, according to Fox 29 in Tampa, went inside the establishment and called “called Pujols a racial slur and repeated the phrase after Pujols challenged him to do so.”
Police claim Pujols, 27, reacted by punching the man in the jaw, knocking him to the floor, on which he banged his head. Emergency responders found him bleeding from the head and took him to the hospital. The elderly man died two days later and police arrested Pujols on Tuesday and charged him with aggravated manslaughter of an elderly adult, a felony. Pujols has since been released on $2,000 bail.
Pujols told police that the elderly man was a regular customer and called him a racist slur. The police report did not identify which racist sure was used nor the race of the old man, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Store surveillance cameras recorded the punch and showed Pujols making contact with the customer first.
Autopsy results showed the man fractured his skull, injuring his brain, and the medical examiner’s office ruled the manner of death as a homicide.
If convicted, Pujols is facing up to 30 years in prison.
Multiple crowdfunding efforts have popped up online to express everything from solidarity with him to the urgency for financial assistance to pay for legal fees.
One person who organized a GoFundMe for Pujols claimed to be his cousin and said “He is NOT a murderer and that was NEVER his intentions.” The comment was accompanied by the hashtag, “#BLACKPRIDE”.
Another GoFundMe said Pujols “was fed up with blatant, public racism in this country.”
Yet another GoFoFundMe claimed that the elderly man called Pujols the N-word “over & over & over again” and that Pujols “reacted under emotional distress.”
The violence in Tampa was a departure from the type of race-based violence in America that has typically had Black and brown people on its receiving end. But it was also an indication of the serious consequences of such hasty responses to the very racism that permeates the country.