Florida man punches elderly victim for ‘holding up the line’ after social distancing confrontation at Publix, police say

Daytona Beach Shores police searching for man

DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla.UPDATE: Police say the man and the woman involved in the incident have turned themselves in. Click here to read more.

Police are searching for a person they say attacked an elderly man Monday in the parking lot of a Publix in Daytona Beach Shores.

Officers responded to the grocery store at 3044 South Atlantic Ave. after the victim filed a report at the police department.

The man says he was shopping at Publix and waiting in line at the register when a woman he did not know got in line behind him. He says she moved closer to him than the suggested distance indicated by the floor decals in the store, according to a police report. The victim told officers he recently underwent surgery to receive a heart stent and was concerned about his health, so he asked the woman to abide by social distancing rules. No other type of disturbance ensued and the victim paid for his groceries, the report reads.

“It’s just horrible. The fact that social distancing becomes something to go and smash people and knock them to the ground,” said Director Stephan Dembinsky. “As we all know with this pandemic, everybody’s very uptight and he asked the lady to give him some distance. The lady did so. He paid for his products and walked outside.”

Once at his car, a man approached the victim saying derogatory words, claiming the victim had held up the grocery line. That’s when the man punched the elderly victim in the center of his chest, police said.

“He was visibly shaken when he came here. Obviously, after heart surgery, you don’t want to take any punches or falls, but he was OK,” said Dembinsky.

The victim fell to the ground and his head slammed into the pavement, officials said. The man stood over the victim and said, “One word and I’ll kill you,” before walking away and getting into the driver seat of a Cadillac, according to the report. The victim says he saw the woman he had spoken to in the checkout line in the passenger seat of the car as they drove away, the report reads.

Several bystanders were able to help the victim to his feet.

“This is a whole new world for us, but there’s no reason to lose our temper and start to hurt people for this. This man could have been killed from this,” Dembinsky said.

Police say they were able to review surveillance video from inside the store and to get a description of the woman waiting in line behind the victim. Video reveals she met with a man before exiting the store.

Investigators say Publix does not have any video of the incident in the parking lot.

If the suspect is caught he will face a felony charge of aggravated battery on the elderly, according to investigators.

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