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Dunkin’ employee sentenced for fatally punching customer who used racist slur

Corey Pujols, 27, punched the 77-year-old customer after the man called him a racist slur, police said.
Image: Dunkin Donuts
The victim, 77, went through the drive-thru of a Dunkin' and became upset due to the lack of service he was receiving, police said.Scott Eisen / Bloomberg via Getty Images file
/ Source: NBC News

A Florida Dunkin’ employee was sentenced to two years on house arrest after he pleaded guilty to fatally punching a customer who used a racist slur.

Corey Pujols, 27, was initially charged with aggravated manslaughter after he punched a 77-year-old man in the jaw following an altercation in May. He initially pleaded not guilty but agreed to change his plea for the lesser charge of felony battery, court records show.

In addition to house arrest, a judge sentenced him to 200 hours of community service and ordered him to attend an anger management course.

Attorneys for Pujols and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office could not immediately be reached on Wednesday.

The incident began when the customer, identified by The Associated Press as Vonelle Cook, became upset over the lack of service he was receiving in the drive-thru, Tampa police said at the time. Cook was asked to leave, but he instead parked and went inside the store.

Police said Cook and Pujols started arguing and that Cook called Pujols, who is Black, a racist slur. A criminal report affidavit states that the customer called Pujols the N-word.

According to police, Pujols “challenged” the man to repeat the slur and when the man did Pujols punched him in the jaw.

Cook was knocked unconscious and fell, hitting his head on the floor. According to the affidavit, he started bleeding from the head and was taken to a hospital with a skull fracture and contusions on the brain. He died three days later, police said.

Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, told the Tampa Bay Times that prosecutors considered the “totality of the circumstances,” including Pujols’ age and lack of criminal history when agreeing to the plea deal. He also said prosecutors considered Cook’s behavior on the day of the incident.

“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,” Kamm told the newspaper.

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