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A confrontation between two South Florida Walmart shoppers — involving a gun and words about COVID-19 masks — has spawned a new lawsuit.
The incident happened on July 12, 2020, at the retailer’s Royal Palm Beach store when Vincent Scavetta and Christopher Estrada had an encounter caught on surveillance video. Estrada had asked Scavetta to put a mask on because of the coronavirus, records show.
At one point, the maskless Scavetta is seen whipping out his licensed Smith & Wesson .40-caliber semi-automatic weapon and pointing it in the direction of Estrada, who was wearing a facial covering. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office later arrested Scavetta, but prosecutors decided against filing two charges and the case was closed.
That was the end of it until Sept. 29, when Scavetta filed civil claims against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and Estrada. Bradshaw’s office said it will not comment on pending litigation, and Estrada could not be reached despite attempts by cellphone.
Scavetta, 30, is suing the sheriff over defamation and “malicious prosecution” claims.
The lawsuit slams Bradshaw over social media posts his office made on Facebook and Twitter, showing images of the Walmart scene along with some statements about Scavetta.
One Tweet states, “You think you’re big and bad because you pull out a gun?”
One Facebook post reads: “Welcome to the PBC Jail, son. Let this be a lesson. It could have ended badly.”
“These official statements and the comments generated … were malicious and made with the intention to publicly humiliate, embarrass, and shame … Scavetta,” the lawsuit states.
Scavetta says these “false statements” hurt his “business, reputation, and occupation, as well as exposed him to hatred, ridicule, and contempt.” The lawsuit does not specify the Lake Worth Beach man’s occupation; arrest paperwork shows he works in information technology.
The second claim against Bradshaw argues that the Sheriff’s Office had no business charging Scavetta with a crime based on the facts of the situation. The charges were aggravated assault with a firearm and improper exhibition of dangerous weapons or firearms.
Scavetta attorney Dan Moses of Boca Raton could not be reached for comment despite calls to his office Tuesday and Wednesday. The lawsuit doesn’t specify the sum of money that his client is seeking to collect; circuit civil cases seek over $30,000, and Scavetta cited the possibility of seeking punitive damages.
The lawsuit also includes a battery claim against Estrada, claiming that the other shopper hit or touched him with an umbrella. Scavetta says he suffered “mental pain and anguish” as a result.
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Estrada, 47, of West Palm Beach, told deputies that Scavetta started cursing at him, then pulled a gun and said, “I’ll kill you” before aiming at Estrada’s head. He said that’s when he raised the umbrella.
But Scavetta, who had a valid concealed carry permit, told investigators he had removed his mask as he entered the store because it was wet from rain, was fogging up his glasses, and was making it hard to breathe.
Scavetta also said Estrada had threatened him and it was only after being hit with the umbrella that Scavetta pulled out his gun.
In an interview this week with The Palm Beach Post, Estrada said he’s blameless and hopes to be dropped from the suit.
“If there was anything I did wrong, I would have been taken out of there in handcuffs,” he told the newspaper.