Police: Prison Guard Beat Banker, Used Racial Slur Over Mask

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A California prison guard was arrested this week on suspicion of beating a Wells Fargo branch manager and calling him a racial slur after being asked to wear a mask inside the bank, police said.

James Allen Jones, Jr., 50, was arrested at his job at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday following a 10-day investigation into the Sept. 3 attack. Police said Jones, who is white, made racist comments to the Hispanic victim.

It’s not known whether Jones has an attorney who can speak on his behalf. A call to a phone number listed for him went unanswered.

The bank manager told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that a customer became upset when he asked the man to put on a mask, as required by local health orders, called him a racist slur and caused a commotion in the lobby. Later that evening, the manager said the man showed up in the parking lot in the central California city of Grover Beach and fought with him. The man fled before police arrived.

It's one of several instances of violence or threats that have been reported nationwide by workers trying to enforce COVID-19 restrictions at businesses, schools and elsewhere.

Grover Beach Police Chief John Peters said investigators identified Jones as the suspect after interviewing witnesses and gathering surveillance video and still photos of him. They obtained warrants to search his home and property and arrested him at his job on suspicion of committing a hate crime, making criminal threats and battery with serious bodily injury.

“Hateful speech, violent behavior, racism, bigotry and prejudice of all forms are not acceptable, and they have no place in our society,” Peters said in a news release. "The city of Grover Beach is committed to fostering a collaborative, safe and culturally diverse environment for its residents, workers, business owners and tourists.”

Peters said police will present their case and ask San Luis Obispo County prosecutors to file charges next week. Jones was released from custody after posting $50,000 bail.

Jones, a 27-year employee, is on administrative leave pending the outcome of his case, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is cooperating with the investigation, spokeswoman Vicky Waters said. She would not specify if he is on paid or unpaid time off.

“The details of this incident are deplorable, and CDCR does not tolerate this type of behavior on or off duty,” Waters said. “This does not represent our department, nor the standards and expectations we have of our staff.”