In April 2020, Kimberly Woolman refused to comply with COVID protocols and purposefully coughed on an employee trying to enforce them. Now, a judge has found her guilty of assault for doing this.
As part of the COVID protocols at the time, Save On Foods in Campbell River had requirements for shoppers to stay at least six feet apart and to limit the number of people in the store.
In the Provincial Court of British Columbia, Jacqueline Poulton, who was a supervisor at the store at the time, testified she saw Woolman come into the store and “aggressively” asked Poulton why the front area was cordoned off.
Poulton responded that it was to comply with health orders and to prevent a congestion of people entering the store.
“Woolman told her COVID was not real and that it was stupid. When asked if she would obey the social distancing rules, Ms. Woolman replied ‘no,'” Judge Barbara Flewelling wrote in the decision.
Poulton then asked her to leave the store, and Woolman continued into the store with her cart and continued to yell that COVID is not real.
At one point, Woolman abruptly stopped and when Poulton was within three feet, Woolman turned to her and forcibly coughed twice in Poulton’s face, then she carried on into the store.
“Ms. Poulton testified that after Ms. Woolman coughed on her, she was shaken and concerned about being infected,” Flewelling wrote. “She reported the incident and, following advice, went home, washed her clothes, showered and monitored herself for any symptoms. She was able to return to work the next day.”
When they were at the rear of the store, three other employees heard Woolman yelling and came to help. The four employees guided Woolman to the entrance.
At the entrance, a fifth employee, Gord Dawson, arrived to help. The employees tried to stop Woolman from leaving with the cart, since it had unpaid merchandise in it. Woolman said she struggles to walk and needs the cart, an employee offered to get her an empty cart to use.
“Mr. Dawson testified that Ms. Woolman ‘kept trying to ram (the cart) into me … rocking it back and forth trying get me off so she could go around me.'” Flewelling writes. “A couple of times he almost let go and described the situation as getting very volatile and out of control. In the end, Ms. Woolman let go of the cart, walked around him and continued to swear and yell.”
Flewelling found Woolman guilty of three offences: causing a disturbance in a public place by shouting, assault related to coughing on Poulton, and assault related to pushing the shopping cart into Dawson.
The judge also notes that Woolman tried to get the charges dismissed because of the requirement that a trial take place within 18 months.
“Ms. Woolman’s submission fails to recognize that time starts running from the date that charges are instituted and also takes into account any delay caused by the defendant,” Flewelling writes.
“Her trial was initially scheduled to commence on April 26, 2022 which is well within 18 months from March 23, 2021, the date charges were instituted with the swearing of the Information. On April 22, 2022, Ms. Woolman successfully applied to the court to adjourn her trial which was the rescheduled to July 29, 2022.”
Sentencing has not yet taken place in this incident.