On 11 November 2020, Shane Wayne Michael was wearing his mask improperly in a Vision 4 Less eyewear shop in Des Moines, Iowa, when a fellow customer asked him to pull up his mask, the Iowa Central Dispatch reported.
After customer Mark Dinning asked Michael to cover both his nose and mouth with his mask, the two began exchanging words.
Both men then left the store and continued the altercation in the car park. As the fight escalated, the two men fell to the ground.
Michael jabbed Mr Dinning in the eye; Mr Dinning then bit Michael in return.
Michael then kneed Mr Dinning repeatedly in the groin before fully lowering his mask and spitting on Mr Dining. He then shouted: “If I have it, you have it,” referring to Covid.
Both men claimed that the other initiated the brawl.
Mr Dinning said that Michael had followed him into the car park, where he attacked him; Michael claimed that Mr Dinning had “shoulder-checked” him, and poked him in the stomach, starting the fight.
Eyewitnesses sided with Mr Dinning. A fellow customer told police officers that Michael appeared to be the aggressor, confirming that Michael had followed Mr Dinning outside and attacked him. A shop employee also told the police a similar story, describing Michael as a “problem”.
Shortly after the exchange, Michael was arrested. On 1 April, he was convicted of wilful injury causing serious injury and sentenced to 10 years in prison on 9 June.
Dennis Michael, Michael’s father, told the Iowa Capital Dispatch said that his son had been acting in self-defence in the fight. He added that his son has asthma, which was why his mask was not covering both his nose and mouth.
“There was no mask mandate in place,” he said. “It was just a request by Vision 4 Less that people wear a mask, and he was.”
As of 12.01am on the date of the attack, an executive order signed by Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, requiring customers and employees to wear masks had come into effect.
The order stated: “Customers and employees are also now required to wear masks at salons, barbershops, massage therapy establishments, tattoo establishments, tanning facilities and other establishments providing personal services.”
Mr Michael also said that he felt that his son’s sentence was unfair. “It’s like (Dinning) got a black eye in a bar fight, and now my son is getting 10 years in prison,” he said.
Michael’s lawyer has filed a motion for a new trial, citing newly available video evidence of the attack from the shop, as well as body-camera video from a responding officer.