Rhonda Comeau of Salmo is recovering at home after heart attacks that followed her confrontation with a customer at Empire Coffee in Nelson on Nov. 20. Photo: Submitted

Rhonda Comeau of Salmo is recovering at home after heart attacks that followed her confrontation with a customer at Empire Coffee in Nelson on Nov. 20. Photo: Submitted

Nelson hotel mask confrontation: perpetrator arrested, victim recovering

Jeremy Undershute is expected to be charged with assault

Rhonda Comeau says she was trying to protect the servers at Empire Coffee in Nelson’s Adventure Hotel when she confronted a man shouting about mask-wearing on Nov. 20.

She said the man, since identified by police as Jeremy Undershute, was wearing a mask but loudly and profanely yelling about the requirement to wear one, calling the servers and customers “sheep.”

“These girls are young,” Comeau said. “They have never been put in a situation like this before. They were scared. And he thought that was OK. And when he tried it with me, it was like, yeah, you’re not dealing with a 16 year old now.”

Comeau, who is the financial controller for the hotel, told him they wouldn’t serve him because he was bullying the staff. She told Undershute to leave and he refused.

“I said, ‘Well, you’re either leaving on your own, or you’re leaving by police escort, I really don’t care which.’”

Undershute then allegedly spat on her before leaving. Comeau followed him until the police apprehended him two blocks away.

Related: Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

Staff Sgt. Brian Weber of the Nelson City Police says the police have asked the Crown for an assault charge as well as a charge of abusive and belligerent behaviour under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, but the Crown has not yet approved these charges.

Undershute is already scheduled for a Jan. 19 court appearance for charges of assault, resisting arrest, and causing a disturbance following a similar incident in a different location in downtown Nelson in August.

After the incident at Empire Coffee, Comeau’s first concern was to clean herself up.

“When I got into the bathroom, that’s when it kind of hit me what happened,” she said. “And that’s when I started getting really ticked off. I was looking forward to see my grandkids, and this guy just spit on me. I didn’t know if he’s got something. This could ruin Christmas.”

Then she walked two blocks on an errand and on her way back had to stop and rest because of chest pain and shortness of breath.

“I slowly made my way back to the hotel. I got to the back parking lot and the pain started getting worse. I sat down on the bench. And I thought, you know, this isn’t a good place to be outside by myself. Something’s wrong. I walked into [hotel manager Rob Little’s] office and he was on his phone. And I just said, ‘Rob, call 911.’ I knew I was having a heart attack.”

She remembers having a heart attack at the hotel — “That’s a pain you never forget” — but after entering the ambulance her memory is spotty. She remembers little about the trip to Kelowna, then nothing until four days later when she was taken out of an induced coma. She came home to Salmo four days after that, on Nov. 28.

Piecing the day’s events together later, Comeau says after the initial heart attack she had three cardiac arrests the same day.

It has not been proven in court that the incident directly caused Comeau’s heart attacks.

But she said several of her doctors told her they thought it did, and she said one of them wrote a letter to the police stating this opinion.

Independently of the medical opinion, Comeau is convinced the two are connected.

“I know my temperament,” she said.

She put on a calm demeanor in the midst of the incident because she didn’t want to panic in front of the servers, and she resisted telling Undershute what she thought of him.

“I’m a professional. I’m a manager. But inside, I wasn’t calm. I was raging. I could feel all of that raging inside of me when I was talking to him, I had it raging inside me when I had to go into my office with his spit all over me and watch the surveillance footage.”

Since arriving home she’s been dealing with confusion, limited mobility and pain, and she was taken to Kootenay Boundary Hospital again on Dec. 10 and on Dec. 23 with complications. Her husband has had to stay home and look after her. As of Dec. 28, Comeau said she felt about 60-to-70 per cent recovered.

She has worked for the Adventure Hotel for 12 years, working her way up through various jobs, and she calls the hotel staff her work family. She’s grateful for the company’s response to her situation.

“Rob told me, ‘I don’t care what you need. You phone me, you text me. I don’t care what it is, you’re going to have it.’”



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

West Shore RCMP arrested a 42-year-old man April 11 following numerous reports of someone firing a rifle in a Malahat campground. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP arrest man after shots fired at Malahat campground

Police received numerous reports of a man firing a rifle outside his camper trailer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Driver who crashed into Uptown Walmart likely suffering mental health crisis, police say

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

A portion of West Coast Road in Sooke is closed as emergency services are currently responding to a “serious incident.” Photo courtesy of Google Maps.
West Coast Road is closed between Grant Road West and Otter Point Road

A portion of West Coast Road in Sooke is closed as emergency services are currently on scene

Oak Bay Police. (Black Press File Photo)
Driver caught accelerating to twice the speed limit through Oak Bay school zone

Officers also responded to impaired drivers and multiple thefts last week

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

Most Read