Confronted Thursday at a Bank of America in Galveston, Terry Wright scoffed at the idea that she could face criminal consequences. “What are you going to do, arrest me?” she said to a police officer, who had just informed her — in an exchange captured on body camera — that if staff told her to leave, she had to comply.
“The law says that I do not have to wear a mask,” Wright insisted, stating incorrectly that she was in a “public place.”
A minute and a half later, Wright was crouched on the floor, hands cuffed behind her back.
“Police brutality right here, people,” she said toward the people still in line.
“No, it is not,” said another.
Wright’s defiance came as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to drop mask mandates — and to let businesses operate at full capacity — leaves store owners to make and enforce their own rules. Texas and other states are moving to swiftly reopen their economies and end restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Millions of people have been vaccinated, but with virus variants spreading and most Americans still awaiting their shots, health officials say it’s far too early to ditch face coverings.
Thursday’s struggle at the bank underscored the challenges of maintaining mask requirements — though Wright said in an interview that she has never covered her face inside stores, statewide orders or not. Galveston police say they have issued a warrant for the 65-year-old’s arrest on allegations of trespass and resisting arrest.
Wright said she was “attacked,” described her belief in a “Plandemic” — a reference to a widely shared, misinformation-filled video — and compared mask requirements to the way that Nazi Germany forced Jewish people to identify themselves with a Star of David.
She said she has no regrets and that people “can’t cancel me, I’m retired.” She maintained that the law is on her side and told The Washington Post that she plans to call police on Monday. She said she is in a Hitchcock, Tex., RV park across the bay from Galveston.
“I feel like I took one for the team, because people need to wake up,” she said, decrying mask mandates.
Police said Wright “sustained minor injuries” and was taken to University of Texas Medical Branch Health in Galveston. Wright said it was more serious: She showed a Post reporter a boot on her foot and papers from a Thursday visit to UTMB describing multiple fractures.
The bank did not comment on the incident beyond providing information on its mask policy.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical experts continue to reinforce the importance of using face coverings and practicing physical distancing in all public spaces,” said spokeswoman Carla Molina, explaining that customers who are uncomfortable or unable to wear a mask can use ATMs or drive-through windows rather than enter their offices.
Body camera footage released by Galveston police shows an officer walking into the bank and conferring with a woman using a blue surgical mask. The woman points toward Wright, saying quietly, “She’s right over here.”
The officer finds Wright in line and without a mask. “Ma’am … if they ask you to leave, you have to leave,” he said.
“My money’s in this bank, and I’m going to take it out,” Wright replied.
“Well then you have to abide by the rules,” the officer responded, saying the bank had a “right to refuse service.” Not swayed, Wright said she had been waiting for about 10 minutes.
“Ma’am, listen,” the officer said. “We’re going to do this the easy way or the hard way.”
More arguing follows, with Wright eventually walking away and the officer following.
“Do not touch me!” she says. “Who do you think you are?” The officer tries to handcuff her and forces her toward the floor, ordering her to put her hands behind her back.
“I hope someone’s filming this,” she says at one point. Eventually she gets up and is escorted out. “I think you broke my freaking foot!” she says, and the officer calls for help as he leads her to a car.
Wright told The Post that she called police after leaving the hospital Thursday evening. A photo of her call log appeared to corroborate that.
But Wright said that when she asked “what my next step is,” a police sergeant whose name she did not recall told her, “none of my officers arrested you that day.”
Galveston police spokeswoman Stacy Papillion said Saturday that she could not speak to how Wright left the hospital or her account of calling police afterward. She said Wright was taken into custody and was set to be arrested but was then immediately taken to the hospital after complaining of foot pain.
“She will be arrested on the warrant,” Papillion said. Authorities around Texas have emphasized that, despite the absence of a statewide mask mandate, people can still face arrest for trespass if they flout a business’s rules.
Masks remain required in limited situations: The Texas Education Agency, for example, said after the governor’s orders that schools should keep mandating masks. And some local officials have defied the governor’s orders to stop enforcing broader restrictions.
“We’re not going to rescind anything,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said on CNN. “We told our community that we would always be guided by the data and the doctors, and we’re going to continue that.”
A judge on Friday refused to give the state an injunction in its legal battle with the city and the surrounding county, paving the way for a local mask mandate to remain awhile longer.