When Heather Reid Sprague noticed a woman becoming belligerent with employees at a Pier 1 store in Jacksonville, Florida, this week, she took out her phone and began recording.
That’s when the yet-to-be-identified “Karen” walked over and intentionally coughed in the face of Sprague, a mother of 10 who is also a cancer patient.
“Do you really need this? What do you want me to do, post it for you? How about that?” the woman can be seen telling Sprague at the start of the video. “I think I’ll get real close to you and cough on you then. How’s that? Asshole!”
The woman then tells her children, “Let’s go,” before leaving the store at St. Johns Town Center.
Sprague later posted her video to Facebook alongside the following account of the incident, which took place amid a massive spike of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State.
“Yesterday I learned firsthand the power of conscientious bystanders,” Sprague wrote. “It took 30 seconds to end 15 minutes of aggressive harassment. I’m a mother of ten, and currently a brain tumor patient at Mayo Clinic. Obviously, I don’t get out much right now. I had an appointment in the Town Center area, so I donned my mask and ducked into a store to escape the heat while I waited for my appointment time. There were two small children wandering around the store unattended for an extended period, and the little guy was doing the potty dance. It became apparent that they belonged to a woman at the register who was becoming increasingly belligerent. She was screaming at, swearing, insulting, and threatening the staff as she demanded to return an item she didn’t have with her, just a photo of the item on her phone. The staff were professional and respectful. But they couldn’t return an item she didn’t actually have with her. She continued to rage, all the while her poor little boy was squirming and asking for a bathroom, which she would have needed to leave the store to find. When she positioned herself so the clerks couldn’t exit the checkout area and screamed that she would stay right there, yelling as loud as she wanted, until all their customers left… I stood at a distance, pulled out my phone and wordlessly began filming. She immediately turned her attention away from the staff to me. The video tells the rest of the story. I did not speak, react, or engage. Simply stood to document the behavior. When bullies are faced with accountability they must acknowledge the unacceptability of their actions. Within 30 seconds of filming her tirade was done and she left the poor staff in peace. And hopefully her sweet boy got to find a potty. I’m off to find a Covid test, thanks Karen*cough, cough*.”