DENVER (KDVR) — An Arapahoe County judge sentenced a man to 13 years in the Department of Corrections for a 2020 Waffle House shooting stemming from a COVID mask dispute.
According to the Aurora Police Department, Kelvin Watson, 30, entered an Aurora Waffle House on East Mississippi Avenue on May 14, 2020, without a COVID mask. Ultimately, Watson left the restaurant and returned a day later, when he shot a cook in the stomach for refusing him service.
Watson entered a guilty plea this month to one count of attempted second-degree murder and a sentence enhancer for committing a violent crime with a weapon, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The judge sentenced Watson to 13 years in prison and three years of post-release mandatory parole.
“While restaurants and stores are public places, businesses have the right to refuse service or ask customers to leave their establishment,” 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner said in a release. “The defendant drove back to the restaurant and shot an innocent employee for no reason other than doing his job.”
Shooter returns to Waffle House after COVID mask dispute
An arrest affidavit described how a waitress told Watson he had to wear a face mask or he could not be served. The restaurant was offering carry-out orders at the time, but sit-down meals were not being served.
The waitress told investigators that Watson left the restaurant only to return with a mask, but without wearing it. He was asked to leave again, and this is when employees say Watson began to be aggressive.
Court documents detail that Watson placed a gun on the counter, telling the cook he would “blow your brains out.” No one was injured on May 14.
Watson then returned to the restaurant the following night, according to the affidavit. The same cook from the previous night told Watson he would not be served, causing Watson to slap the cook. The cook told police he began running to the back of the Waffle House when Watson shot him in the stomach.
The cook was taken to a hospital and released the same day.
Employees of the Aurora Waffle House identified Watson as the shooter and a regular at the restaurant.
At the time of the shooting, the city of Aurora did not have a mask mandate for public places, but other areas of the Denver metro area did require masking.