Dunkin’ Employee Sentenced to Home Arrest After Fatally Punching Customer Who Used Racist Slur
Corey Pujols punched 77-year-old Vonelle Cook in the jaw during an altercation at a Dunkin’ in Tampa, Florida back in May. Cook died three days days later
A 27-year-old Dunkin’ employee in Florida accused of fatally punching an elderly customer for using a racial slur was sentenced to two years of house arrest after pleading guilty to felony battery.
Corey Pujols was ordered by a judge on Monday to confinement in his home, according to court records. He will also need to complete 200 hours of community service and attend an anger management course.
Pujols was arrested last May and charged with aggravated manslaughter, records show. He initially pled not guilty but later changed his plea to felony battery, a lesser charge.
Police said Pujols punched 77-year-old Vonelle Cook in the jaw during an altercation at a Tampa Dunkin’ location around 1:30 p.m. on May 4.
The two had been arguing after Cook came into the store, complaining about the quality of customer service at the drive-thru, where he had been attempting to order a coffee. Prosecutors said he was aggressive and verbally abusive towards employees, who — per a release from the State Attorney’s Office — described Cook as a “regularly troublesome and abusive” customer.
Amid Cook’s tirade, Pujols asked his co-workers to call the police and requested that Cook leave the premises, officials said. Cook, who was white and a registered sex offender, called Pugols (who is Black) the N-word. Pujols then “challenged” Cook not to use that racial slur again, a criminal report affidavit stated, but when Cook did, Pujols punched him in the jaw.
Cook fell following the punch, hitting his head on the floor in the process. Bleeding from his head, he was taken to the hospital where he died three days later.
An autopsy report determined that Cook suffered both a skull fracture and brain contusions from the fall.
PEOPLE reached out the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office and to Pujols’s attorney for comments.
Grayson Kamm, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, told the Tampa Bay Times that the “totality of the circumstances” was considered when agreeing to Pujols’ plea deal, including his age, lack of criminal history, Cook’s comments, and the fact that he did not intend to cause Cook’s death. “Two of the primary factors were the aggressive approach the victim took toward the defendant and everyone working with the defendant, and that the victim repeatedly used possibly the most aggressive and offensive term in the English language,” Kamm said.