TAMPA, Fla. – A Florida Dunkin’ employee was sentenced Monday to two years of house arrest after pleading guilty to fatally punching a customer who repeatedly used a racial slur against him.
As part of his plea agreement, 27-year-old Corey Pujols must complete 200 hours of community service, attend an anger management course and spend three years on probation following completion of his sentence, The Associated Press reported.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, an irate customer walked into the doughnut chain in May 2021 and “began to scream complaints of poor service.”
When Pujols asked the customer, identified as Vonelle Cook, to leave, Cook allegedly continued his tirade and called Pujols a racial slur. Pujols is Black, and Cook is white, the newspaper reported.
Pujols stepped from behind the counter and told Cook not to repeat the slur, but Cook said it again, at which point Pujols punched Cook, knocking the customer to the floor, where he hit his head, the Times reported.
Cook died three days later, and Pujols was charged with manslaughter, but he pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of felony battery, the AP reported.
Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, told the Times that prosecutors considered the “totality of the circumstances,” including Pujols’ youth, his lack of criminal history and the fact that he did not intend to cause Cook’s death. They also considered Cook’s behavior and what he said, the newspaper confirmed.
“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 said.
An autopsy determined that Cook, whom court records show was a registered sex offender, suffered a skull fracture and brain contusions during the altercation with Pujols, the AP reported.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.