CAVE CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The owner of Teeslangers, a gift shop in Cave Creek, pulled a gun on a customer after a verbal altercation turned physical regarding a "no mask" policy, according to a police report.
The store owner, Scott Cerkoney, contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in November to report a customer became physical. According to the report, Cerkoney asked the customer to leave because he was wearing a mask. However, he refused.
"The gentleman that was wearing the mask basically was telling him he doesn't have to leave and they went back and forth, arguing for probably a good minute. Scott just continued to repeat himself like, 'You need to leave my store right now, I do not allow people to wear masks,'" said one witness, who doesn't want to be identified.
The witness was on his way to dinner when he heard the commotion coming from the back of the store.
"He shoved Scott really hard, like Scott went flying back and that is when Scott pulled his gun out and simply said, 'Get out of my store right now,' so it was basically a self-defense move," said the witness. "Regardless of anyone's opinion of the way Scott runs his store or the kind of products he's selling in his store, I think this is a completely separate issue and he shouldn't be presented as like an antagonizing violent business owner because that's not what he was doing."
The customer, who did not want to be identified, told deputies that Cerkoney was "getting in his face" and "chest-bumping" him, which is why he pushed him away. The witness, however, said he didn't see Cerkoney touch the customer.
"He didn't degrade him and he simply kept repeating himself, 'You're going to leave. We do not allow people to wear masks in our store,'" said the witness.
According to the police report, the customer told deputies he was trying to leave when Cerkoney pulled out his gun. The customer also told MCSO to look into Cerkoney's social media, where he is "ranting about liberals." The customer also told deputies that he would be willing to aid in prosecution if it was determined a crime was committed. He added, "it's not even like he knew he was protecting himself. He was straight-up excited to pull his gun up out of his waistband and antagonize me as I was trying to leave."
When asked about the no mask policy, Cerkoney showed deputies a video on a mask's effectiveness to explain why he has a no mask policy. He also told the deputy he has seen health care workers improperly wear masks, and he disagrees with "Zooming kindergarten." According to the report, he also stated that due to the looting and civil unrest, he wanted to protect his business, and he couldn't tell who was good and who was bad with a mask on.
"I also, to be honest with you, think it's a little extreme. I think Scott's a little extreme," said the witness, who has no personal connection to either the customer or the store owner. "His approach to people that come in with masks on is pretty harsh so it's probably a little provoking, but that's not to excuse the gentleman's behavior that shoved him because that's instigating violence."
MCSO alerted Maricopa County Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services regarding Teeslanger's no mask policy.
Cerkoney could not be reached for comment. The incident is still under investigation.