A Salt Lake City business closed its doors early on Sunday after a patron refused to wear a mask and threatened to return with a gun after he was asked to leave.

“I didn’t take it too seriously at first ... it’s such a crazy thing to say to someone,” said The Stockist employee Josh Edgar. “But then after a minute I thought, ‘Wait, maybe he’s being serious.’”

The man had gone into the specialty clothing store, located at 875 E. 900 South in Salt Lake’s popular 9th and 9th neighborhood, without wearing a mask. When Edgar noticed, he asked the man to put on a mask.

“He immediately started yelling and swearing at us,” Edgar said. He said the man told him, “This is my country, I don’t have to wear a mask.”

Jack Carrasco and Josh Edgar, employees at The Stockist, are pictured in the store in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 11, 2021. Helen Wade, the store’s owner, chose to close the store for the remainder of the day after a person threatened to come back with a gun when asked to leave for not wearing a mask. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“He immediately exploded with rage and fury,” said Jack Carrasco, another employee who witnessed the interaction while he was bagging goods for another customer. “Everybody had their eyes on the situation and everybody was extremely uncomfortable.”

Edgar ultimately asked the man to leave the store. When the man left, he told Edgar, “I’m going to get my gun and come back and shoot you all.”

“It was a bit off-putting, I’m still a bit on edge,” Carrasco said.

Salt Lake police have been informed about the threat.

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Jack Carrasco, an employee at The Stockist, is pictured in the Salt Lake City store on Sunday, April 11, 2021. Helen Wade, the store’s owner, chose to close the store for the remainder of the day after a person threatened to come back with a gun when asked to leave for not wearing a mask. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Neither of the employees had ever before experienced such disdain from a customer regarding their requirement to wear a mask while shopping. When other customers have come in without a face covering and been asked to use one, they’ve either pleasantly obliged or acted a little annoyed, but still followed the rules.

Stockist owner Helen Wade, who wasn’t at the store when the alleged altercation occurred, said the situation surrounding the ongoing pandemic, along with social and civil unrest in the past year, has been difficult enough for businesses to navigate. Aside from hiring private security, which is likely too costly for her, she said she worries about what to do for the safety of her employees and patrons at the store.

Helen Wade, owner of The Stockist, looks out the front door of her Salt Lake City store on Sunday, April 11, 2021. Wade chose to close the store for the remainder of the day after a person threatened to come back with a gun when asked to leave for not wearing a mask. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

On Monday, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson visited Stockist to show her support to the business and said she purchased a “cute pair of earrings” while there.

“Stopped by The Stockist to express my support for the store’s owner and her employees. Businesses have every right to protect workers and customers by requiring masks. It’s a small ask to expect people to be respectful and kind. FYI, SLC still has mask mandate,” Henderson posted on Twitter.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall extended the city’s mask mandate past Saturday’s expiration of the statewide mandate, which Wade said is helpful. Businesses around the state are also able to enact mask requirements as they see fit.

“It gives us one foot to stand on,” she said, adding that it wasn’t just the store imposing the requirement, but, “everywhere you go, you have to wear a mask.”

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Having state and local government backing was comforting to the store owner.

“Unfortunately, today this person decided they could do what they want and say what they want and treat us horribly,” Wade said. She hopes her employees are able to process what happened and not carry too much anxiety into the coming days and weeks.

“It’s definitely something we have to worry about,” Carrasco said.

Contributing: Amy Donaldson

A pedestrian and his dog walk past the Stockist store in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 11, 2021.
A pedestrian and his dog walk past The Stockist in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 11, 2021.Helen Wade, the store’s owner, chose to close the store for the remainder of the day after a person threatened to come back with a gun when asked to leave for not wearing a mask. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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