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 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

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read