A man was punched over a mask dispute at a Key West Dairy Queen, police say

·2 min read

A mask dispute in Key West sent one man to the hospital and another to jail over the weekend.

The incident took place Sunday afternoon at Dairy Queen, 1207 United St. It started when Neshad Potts refused to put on a mask as an employee behind the take-out window had requested, said Eli Paez, who ended up in the hospital with a head injury and a hole in his lip after being punched in the face by the man.

Paez, who was waiting in line for ice cream at the time, noted the 24-year-old Fort Myers man said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had ended mask mandates.

“He freaked out and said, ‘DeSantis said we don’t have to wear masks,’ ” said Paez, 28, in an interview Monday.

“I said, ‘Sir, it’s a privately owned business,’ ” Paez added. “If you want ice cream, just put a mask on.”

Potts was arrested around 5 p.m. on a felony charge of battery in connection with the incident, said Key West police spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

As of Monday evening, Potts was still at the county jail on Stock Island with a $30,000 bond. It was unclear whether he has legal representation.

During his arrest later, Potts told police he was defending himself “after Paez was following him,” according to the arrest report. “Potts denied any wrongdoing,” police wrote.

Paez accused Potts of passing gas on him before subsequently striking him in the face.

“He farted on me and I was like, nobody’s ever done that to me,” Paez said. “That is the most disgusting and childish thing. He looked at me and smacked the hat off my head.”

Paez told Potts he wasn’t afraid of him.

“I”m a transgender guy,” Paez said. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re a f---ing dyke.’”

That’s when Paez took a punch to the mouth.

“I didn’t even see it coming,” Paez said. “I fell backwards. I have a huge lump on the back of my head.”

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Paez, who was treated at Lower Keys Medical Center, said he also had short-term memory loss from the injury.

Key West stopped enforcing its mask ordinance in March after DeSantis canceled fines for violating COVID emergency orders.

On May 5, the Monroe County Commission rescinded its mask ordinance after DeSantis’ order that invalidates local COVID-19 rules, but noted businesses may still require masks on their premises.

Paez was sticking up for the Dairy Queen employee, saying he related to the situation because he runs a business, the 5 Brothers coffee and sandwich shop owned by his father.

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