Maskless woman hits Phoenix airport gate agent for stopping her from boarding flight, gets arrested
Yarbrough had reportedly originally come from Los Angeles, where crew members had flagged her for refusing to wear a face mask
PHOENIX, ARIZONA: A woman was arrested on Wednesday, August 12, after she allegedly hit a gate agent of American Airlines after they denied her from boarding because she refused to wear a face mask. The woman, identified as Yolanda Yarbrough, 47, was arrested by Phoenix Police Department officers for assault, a department spokesperson Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said. "Officers contacted the victim who informed officers that the suspect had struck him with her hand on his face," Fortune told Newsweek.
The 47-year-old reportedly arrived at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport just before 8 am on August 12 to board a connecting flight to Las Vegas. Yarbrough had reportedly originally come from Los Angeles, where crew members had flagged her for refusing to wear a face mask.
A spokesperson for American Airlines, Curtin Blessing, told the outlet: "After arriving into Phoenix and being informed that they would not be able to take their connecting flight to Las Vegas, the individual became irate and struck an American team member in the terminal. Law enforcement was requested and since this is now a law enforcement matter, we would refer additional questions to the Phoenix Police Department." The spokesperson added that the gate agent was not injured in the incident. Meanwhile, American Airlines has placed Yarbrough on its internal refuse list pending further investigation, the spokesperson added.
Face coverings are necessary on all flights in the United States in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the country policy. American Airlines' website states that those who decline to wear face masks could "be denied boarding and future travel on American". As the incident unfolded at the airport, a witness took a video on their cellphone camera and posted it on Twitter. The clip shows the altercation between Yarbrough and the gate agent. However, it does not show her striking the employee. Although the video shows her yelling profanities as other passengers nearby try to hold her back. "I will be on that flight. F**k you mean I'm not taking my mother f***ing flight?" Yarbrough said.
The 47-year-old also threatened to beat the agent's "a** with a bat" if she was not allowed to get on the flight. "If I don't get on that flight, you're going to be beat down to the death right here. I promise you that," she said. The clip ends with officers arriving to speak with Yarbrough.
The incident comes days after Illinois Governor JB Pritzker passed a law penalizing anyone who assaults an employee enforcing the use of masks and face coverings to curb the spread of coronavirus. The governor said that the assault of a worker who's "conveying public health guidance," under the new law, can now be prosecuted as aggravated battery, a felony in the state. The law went into effect immediately. The governor's office, in a statement, said: "This provision sends the message that it's vitally important for workers to be both respected and protected while serving on the frontlines."