Dunkin' employee gets "house arrest" after fatally punching irate customer

Kristen Walters

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Last May, Vonelle Cook, a 77-year old Florida man, pulled up through the drive-through of a Tampa Dunkin' location and attempted to order a coffee. But, according to court records, the drive-through worker had difficulty hearing him.

Cook then became frustrated and started "berating" the Dunkin' employee, complaining about poor customer service. Finally, due to the nature of Cook's behavior, he was asked to leave the drive-through line. However, instead of driving away, he parked his car and went inside the store.

According to reports, once Cook entered the Dunkin' store, he immediately started yelling about the "bad customer service" he had received in the drive-through and began exhibiting "erratic" behavior. In response to Cook's behavior, Corey Pujols, a 27-year old Dunkin' employee, asked a coworker to call the police.

Pujols then asked Cook to leave the store. Cook responded by calling Pujols a "racial slur." Pujols walked around the service counter and asked Cook not to use inappropriate racial slurs. However, Cook was irate and defiantly repeated the slur a second time. Pujols then punched Cook in the jaw, and he immediately fell to the floor and hit his head.

When Cook fell and hit his head, he sustained a skull fracture and brain contusions. He passed away from his injuries three days later.

Pujols was arrested and charged with manslaughter. However, earlier this week, a Florida judge approved a plea deal that would allow Pujols to serve two years of house arrest, perform community service, and take an anger management class.

The reasoning given by the judge for approving the reduced sentence was that Cook had started the confrontation. His erratic behavior was threatening not only to Pujols, but also to other employees working in the store. Pujols had no prior criminal record at the time of the incident, and the judge concluded that he did not intend for the punch to be fatal to Cook.

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