FARGO — A Fargo woman says she was assaulted in a convenience store after telling an unmasked couple that North Dakota has a mask mandate said she probably won’t do that again, at least not in the near future.
Fargo police were called to the Casey’s General Store at 2701 S. University just after 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, one day after Gov. Doug Burgum issued multiple orders to slow the “rampant spread” of COVID-19, including a face covering requirement.
Catherine Orvik, 51, was involved in a verbal altercation and shoving match inside the store with the couple, which ended in her being picked up by the man and slammed to the floor.
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“When I was on the ground ... I couldn't move. I thought I was paralyzed, quite honestly. I mean … it was painful,” Orvik said.
Police have not released their report on the incident because it is still being investigated.
They did provide a brief description, noting that the victim told an officer she had been “following” the couple and “hassling” them about not wearing masks.
Orvik denies having followed the couple but said she should have stopped talking when things escalated.
In the hospital emergency room where she was taken after the scuffle, Orvik said several nurses came to her bedside and thanked her for standing up for them because patients they see with COVID-19 are so sick.
“I wasn't an innocent bystander by any means, but I don't think I deserved to get thrown to the ground like that,” she said.
Orvik said her body is pretty sore from the incident, but she suffered no broken bones.
The new state health officer’s order requires face coverings be worn in all indoor businesses and indoor public settings in North Dakota, as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible, effective Nov. 14.
That afternoon, Orvik finished her shift at one of the metro Hornbacher’s stores and stopped at the Casey’s store on South University to get something to eat.
She said she’s frustrated that her employer doesn’t enforce mask-wearing; nor, it appeared, did the convenience store.
When Orvik asked the couple whether they knew there was a mask mandate, they were cordial at first, she said.
Shortly thereafter, Orvik said she heard the woman loudly telling a cashier that she’d been hassled about masks.
Orvik says she walked toward the couple again at the counter, when she says the woman told her masks don’t work and deliberately coughed in her direction.
The man tried to keep the two women separated at first.
Then, according to Orvik, the man shoved her, and she shoved back, after which time he allegedly picked her up and threw her down onto her back.
She stayed on the ground, and a female customer held her hand until an ambulance arrived.
Orvik said the couple ran out, saying, “That’s what you get.”
Before officers arrived, the couple had left in a vehicle.
Orvik said she heard the vehicle had Mississippi license plates, and that surveillance video in the store captured the incident.
Police will not release that video because it’s still an open case.
Later that evening, the police department did put a post on Facebook, acknowledging that while people might not agree with the mask mandate, it is a state and city requirement.
The department also said while it’s not okay to harass people for not wearing a mask, it is “never okay to assault someone because they are annoying you about wearing your mask.”
Orvik admits she could have handled the situation better, but is frustrated by people who are openly ignoring the mandate.
“It’s just a mask. I don't understand why people are so angry about that,” she said.