Watch: Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recounts confrontation with customer who refused to wear mask

'We know there's a lot of anger out there,' Wolff says

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on confrontation with customer
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on confrontation with customer

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff urged residents to be more understanding about the county’s face mask mandate following a confrontation he was involved in on Wednesday with a customer at a hardware store.

Wolff called the sheriff’s office after Terry Toller slapped a business card out of his hand. Wolff tried to intervene after Toller was upset about being told to wear a mask, he said during the county’s COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday evening.

“I was in the line and I heard a person saying ‘you ought to be wearing a mask,' one of the employees, and he said ‘I don’t have to,‘” Wolff said. “So I walked up there and said, ‘you know, you need to be wearing a mask’ and start to hand my card. And you saw what happened.”

Toller left the store shortly after the confrontation, but turned himself in Thursday morning after sheriff’s deputies filed an arrest warrant against him for assault of a public servant. Those charges were quickly downgraded to disorderly conduct for using profanity in a public, a low-level misdemeanor.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said the charges were downgraded at Wolff’s request.

On Thursday, Wolff released this statement about the incident:

“I called the District Attorney early this morning and told him I did not want to pursue any sort of criminal complaint against Mr. Toller. I did not want this to be a distraction of our main focus of requiring businesses to have customers wear masks and continuing to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community,” Wolff said. “We are experiencing a drastic rise in cases and hospitalizations and it is my understanding that those numbers will go up exponentially today. We do not need any distractions from our mission to make sure this virus does not continue to spread within our community.”

Felony assault charge downgraded to misdemeanor in confrontation involving Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, attorney says

Wolff said he understands some residents are upset about the mandate, which requires employees and customers to wear face coverings in places of business.

“We just need to realize we’re in a really, really tough time and we’ve all got to respond to this and do what we can to protect other people,” Wolff said.

Wolff said Toller may have just been having a bad day, but stressed the importance of wearing masks in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“If you inadvertently pass it on to someone that has health issues, they could end up passing away. They could end up being one of the 500...555 people in the hospital,” Wolff said.

Bexar County, much like the state of Texas, is amid a second wave of infections, according to health experts.

On Thursday, Gov. Abbott halted elective surgeries in urban counties where hospitalizations are spiking and paused reopening phases in an effort to address the crisis.

About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.