California Men Refused to Wear Masks in Target and Broke Security Guard's Arm, Police Say

Police in California have arrested two men who they say they left a Target security guard with a broken arm after a fight broke out over their refusal to wear masks.

Phillip Hamilton, 31, and Paul Hamilton, 29, were not wearing face coverings when they entered the store in the 5700 block of Sepulveda Boulevard in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles at around 10.20 a.m. local time on May 1, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a news release.

Store employees confronted the pair about not wearing masks, police said. They refused to wear masks and as they were being escorted out of the store, a fight broke out.

"As they approached the exit, one suspect, suddenly without provocation, turned and punched a store employee, causing him and the suspect to fall to the floor," the police department said in a statement. "While on the ground, the store employee broke his left arm."

The other suspect also joined in the brawl and the pair can be seen scuffling with three store employees in surveillance footage released by the LAPD.

The injured employee was a security guard at the store, WGN reported. He was taken to the hospital for treatment by LAPD paramedics, the police department said.

Phillip and Paul Hamilton were arrested later that day on felony battery charges. Both were held with bail set at $50,000, but were released from custody on May 5, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement provided to Newsweek, a Target spokesperson described the incident as "unfortunate" and said the company would be co-operating with the police investigation.

"At Target, the safety and security of our guests and team members is our top priority," the statement said. "On May 1, an unfortunate altercation occurred following a request from our team members that two guests at our Van Nuys store comply with the city order to wear face coverings while shopping. The incident resulted in the arrest of the individuals by the Los Angeles Police Department."

It added: "We're grateful for the support of local police and we'll provide any information that can be helpful to their investigation."

In this aerial view from a drone, people practice social distancing waiting in line to enter a Target store on April 13, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The incident came after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an emergency order last month requiring people to wear masks or face coverings when visiting essential businesses such as grocery stores in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

There are more than 33,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Los Angeles County and 1,613 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Los Angeles County of Public Health.

Across the U.S., there are more than 1.3 million confirmed cases and the death toll has passed 82,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 230,000 people have recovered from the disease.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases as of May 13.

U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases. Statista

This article has been updated to include a statement from Target.