On April 4, 2020, Makram Megdiche walked into the international food store LA Mart in Columbia, as he does almost daily, to buy groceries. Mr. Megdiche is a pharmacy manager who works with members of the community who have COVID-19, and he was wearing both a medical mask and a hood when he entered the shop. He was stopped by a security guard who asked him to remove his mask. Mr. Megdiche pulled down his mask to show the guard his face, in order to prove that he was a regular customer. He then replaced his mask and entered the store.
As he went to check out, the security guard approached him again, and then tasered Mr. Megdiche when he would not remove his face mask and hood. Mr. Megdiche told WUSA 9:
“I said, ‘Sir, can you keep your social distance please?’ I did not even finish the sentence, and he tased me,” Megdiche said. “It’s an unbearable shock. I’ve never experienced it my whole life. My whole body is shaking up and down on the floor. He forced my hands back, and I was like, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, I will cooperate with you, I will do what you need.’ I was crying and screaming, and he handcuffed me backward.”
Mr. Megdiche retained partner David Muncy to represent him. Mr. Muncy told The Baltimore Sun that “The actions of the LA Mart guard were reprehensible and cannot be tolerated. We will fight to obtain justice for him and his family, and look forward to holding this company responsible for the harm they have caused.”
An investigation into the incident is currently underway.
Face covering requirements during coronavirus
As of this upcoming Saturday, all Marylanders will be required to wear face masks in public. However, Howard County was already strongly recommending that people wear masks. As County Executive Calvin Ball told WMAR 2 News, “Wearing a face-covering in public, along with continued social distancing, is how we can flatten the curve and slow the spread of the COVID-19. While the CDC recommendation is voluntary, the Howard County Health Department is strongly recommending that residents wear a face covering when around others.”
Mr. Megdiche was complying with the CDC recommended guidelines when he entered the shop. Healthline recently reported that up to 50% of a population may be asymptomatic, meaning they are infected with COVID-19 but show none of the telltale symptoms (dry cough, fever, and fatigue) of the disease.
As a pharmacy supervisor, he comes in close contact with patients with COVID-19 as well as with their caretakers. Keeping a mask on was in his best interest, as well as the best interests of those around him.
Why was a security guard given a taser?
What happened to Mr. Megdiche was excessive. First, he is told to remove his mask, but after he reveals his face to the security guard, he is allowed to enter the store. After being allowed to shop, he is then confronted again, and when he asks the guard to please keep a safe distance away, he is tased.
Why did the security guard have a taser at all? Under Maryland code, “A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon of any kind concealed on or about the person [and] A person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon, chemical mace, pepper mace, or a tear gas device openly with the intent or purpose of injuring an individual in an unlawful manner.” Electronic control devices are not specifically named in this statute, but they are used specifically to inflict harm on another person, regardless of the reason why. In this scenario, our client was already getting ready to leave the store when he was approached again, and then tased when had requested that the security guard keep his distance. This appears not to be an act of self-defense, but one of aggression.
As David Muncy told WUSA 9, “There is absolutely no reason for this to happen. For a security guard to even have a taser is unusual. And to use it on a customer in this manner, to me is outrageous.”
Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. has always fought to protect its clients. To learn more about our services, please call 410-413-7528, or fill out this contact form. We are currently offering remote consultations to help limit person-to-person contact.