CAVE CREEK, Ariz. — A "no-mask" policy at a T-shirt shop north of Phoenix led to shoving, cussing, and ultimately a store owner pulling a gun on a customer in November.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said they are still investigating the incident to determine if the customer or owner will face charges.
The bizarre altercation reveals, yet again, how deeply divided the country is when it comes to wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Despite countless studies that have proven that masks limit the spread of COVID-19, store owner Scott Cerkoney says his Teeslangers T-shirt shop has a "strict no-mask policy."
He even set-up signs out front of his store during the summer, letting customers know if they were going to enter it would be without the CDC-recommended face covering.
In late November, Everett DePue entered the shop while wearing a mask.
DePue said he was looking at T-shirts near the front of the store when he was approached by Cerkoney.
"I told this particular gentleman that there was a no mask policy," Cerkoney said.
"He was like right in my face, and he kind of bumps me. And says, 'get the F out of here or take your mask off,'" DePue said.
Cerkoney claims that DePue "chest bumped me, one or two times" and pushed him.
"I had a knee-jerk reaction, because he did bump me, and I pushed him back," DePue said.
"That’s when I drew the weapon," Cerkoney said. "And it wasn’t because he wasn't wearing a mask."
Both men filed police reports with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). DePue believed he was the victim of aggravated assault. Cerkoney believed DePue trespassed at his store and assaulted him.
"I don’t think I’m going to be charged, and I don’t feel I should be charged," Cerkoney said.
"I don’t think I should be charged, but everyone always says that," DePue said.
DePue's attorney said that the sheriff's office originally said it was closing the incident without filing any charges. However, the attorney says the investigation was later re-opened.
"We have now been informed MCSO is submitting this matter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to charge Everett criminally for assault and trespass," DePue's attorney said.
"Detectives advised they are conducting more interviews on the case before they submit to the county attorney," an MCSO spokesperson said in a statement.
MCSO also confirmed that they have not received any charging recommendations or reports regarding the case.
The incident, however it ends, reveals the extreme political views coming to the forefront of everyday life.
"This is a country of 330 million people, and we have a deep chasm right down the middle," Cerkoney said.
Cerkoney does not think his views are extreme.
"I think I’m an honest person who calls a spade a spade," he said.
Before the election, Cerkoney shared several politically-charged videos which he shared to his Facebook page, which spread misinformation regarding election integrity.
"If [Biden] wins, the election was stolen, and we’re going to war," he said in one video.
Cerkoney says that many people that come into his shop do not like the direction the country is heading and worry about President Joe Biden's administration.
"There are a lot of people that want to fight for the country," said Cerkoney, who said he is strongly considering moving out of the country.
Since the incident, Cerkoney says he has gotten death threats.
He has also changed his policy to allow everyone to enter, even if they are wearing a mask.
In the initial police report, MCSO referred to the lack of mask compliance to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) for enforcement.
In a statement, ADHS spokesperson said it is Maricopa County's responsibility to enforce:
"ADHS’ enforcement authority over mask requirements covers restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks as per the governor’s executive order. Mask use is required in those businesses statewide...Maricopa County is responsible for the scope and enforcement of its mask mandate when it comes to other venues," the ADHS spokesperson said.
This story was originally published by Zach Crenshaw on KNXV in Phoenix.