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New Mexico man suspected of coughing in clerk’s face at Durango hotel

Police say he appeared intoxicated, will be charged with disorderly conduct

A 26-year-old San Juan County, New Mexico, man is suspected of coughing in a hotel clerk’s face after refusing to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Durango Police Department Cmdr. Jacob Dunlop said two people who reserved rooms at the Fairfield Inn & Suites at 21719 U.S. Highway 160 in West Durango walked into the hotel to check in not wearing masks Sept. 19.

The hotel clerk asked the guests, who appeared intoxicated, to put on masks, as required by city ordinance. They then pulled up their shirts to try to cover their face, but that didn’t work, Dunlop said.

When the clerk asked again for them to put on masks, one of the men stuck his head around a partition at the front desk counter and started coughing in the clerk’s face, he said.

“She composed herself, got them checked in and contacted law enforcement,” Dunlop said.

Officers arrived at the scene to take the hotel clerk’s report, but were pulled away for another incident, Dunlop said.

“The desk clerk was shaken up about the incident,” he said. “This is the type of situation where a business employee is just trying to enforce the city ordinance, and follow the guidelines of the business, and a gentleman used poor judgment and took it out on her.”

Officers are now working to serve the man, who has been cooperative, a citation for disorderly conduct, which should happen in the next few days, he said. Dunlop declined to release the man’s name until the citation has been served.

Dunlop said officers respond to conflicts about face coverings with some frequency, but it is rare for situations to elevate to the level it did at the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

“Something as flagrant as this is pretty rare,” he said.


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