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Coronavirus: Man killed by police after violent dispute over a face mask at Michigan store

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A shopper walks past a sign advising mask usage in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan, US.
A shopper walks past a sign advising mask usage in downtown St. Joseph, Michigan, US.   -   Copyright  DON CAMPBELL/AP
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Police in the US fatally shot a man on Tuesday suspected of stabbing another man who had challenged him about not wearing a mask at a store in Michigan.

The shooting occurred in Eaton County, southwest of Lansing, about 30 minutes after the stabbing at a Quality Dairy store, state police Lt. Brian Oleksyk said.

A sheriff's deputy spotted the man's vehicle in a residential neighborhood and shot him when he got out of his car and tried to attack her, Oleksyk said.

“Drop the weapon! Drop the weapon!” the officer demanded, according to neighborhood security video released by police.

The man, Sean Ruis, was holding a screwdriver and knives, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said.

“It’s very unfortunate she had to use her weapon, but she had to save her life,” Reich said. “She had to use deadly force. She did it properly.”

Ruis, 43, of Grand Ledge, who worked at the Michigan Department of Transportation, died at a hospital. He was suspected of stabbing a 77-year-old man inside the store when he was confronted about not wearing a mask, Oleksyk said.

The stabbing victim was in stable condition at a hospital. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered people to wear masks in shops to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“The goal here is to be safe. We all have to do our part so this doesn’t spread,” Reich said.

The decision about whether to wear a mask in public for some has become a political statement, and there have been other violent encounters. In May, a security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint was fatally shot after denying entry to a customer without a mask.

Michigan's Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, said masks are important. But he also urged the general public not to confront people over a lack of a mask.

“There is no reason to risk your health or your life over the debate of wearing masks in public,” Shirkey said.