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'I feel threatened!' Viral outburst at Fort Myers Costco costs man his job

David Dorsey
Fort Myers News-Press
Walton Sun

A raging mask debate during a Gulf Coast Town Center Costco yelling incident was captured on video June 27 and went viral Monday night with almost 10 million views. The tirade appears to have cost the man his job.

A man wearing a red, “Running the world since 1776” T-shirt, dark shorts and flip flops was seen yelling “I feel threatened!” and “Back up! Back the (expletive) up and put your (expletive) phone down!” He glared at the camera after a female shopper had asked him to comply with Costco’s mask policy at Gulf Coast Town Center in south Fort Myers.

Another man took out his cell phone camera and captured the yelling.

Billy Corben, a Fort Myers native and documentary filmmaker who lives in Miami, had obtained the video from the man who filmed it Monday. The man who filmed it declined to be identified. Corben tweeted the video to his 82,000 followers. He often shares outlandish stories and videos with the hashtag #BecauseFlorida.

That tweet, in turn, was shared by Shaun King, an attorney and civil rights activist who has 1.1 million followers. He asked: What’s his name?

By Tuesday, the man yelling in the video had been identified, first by Internet and social media shamers, then by Ted Todd Insurance as Daniel Maples, whose biography could be found on the Fort Myers insurance agency website. Maples had been with the agency since 2016 and “is currently the highest-producing sales agent in the company… Likes: Hot yoga, traveling, cooking and mentoring others.”

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After the video went viral

By midday, Maples' bio had been pulled from the site, and the agency released a statement: It had fired Maples.

Law enforcement was not involved in the incident.

“Thank you to everyone for their comments and messages raising awareness about a former employee at Ted Todd Insurance,” the statement from Charley Todd said. “Their behavior in the video is in direct conflict with our company values and their employment has been terminated. Threatening behavior and intimidation go against our core mission to be trusted advisors in our community. We are also committed to immediately reviewing our internal existing culture at TTI.”

Todd did not return calls seeking comment.

Attempts to reach Maples on a phone number found in a public records search were not successful.

The debate on masks has become a heated topic in Southwest Florida, the rest of the state and across the country.

Sanibel Island's city council approved a mask mandate with a 3-1 vote June 30 for public, indoor situations in which six feet of distancing isn't possible. Fort Myers Beach's town council voted in favor of a mask mandate with a 3-2 vote. The Cape Coral city council voted against a similar mandate with a 5-3 vote.

The Lee County and Fort Myers city governments have not voted on the mask issue.

Costco has had a mandatory mask requirement since May 4.

The Gulf Coast Town Center Costco referred phone calls to its corporate office.

Richard Galanti, chief financial officer for Costco, declined to comment on this particular incident but addressed mask-wearing in general in the 547 Costco stores across the country and the 250 international locations.

“Overall, the mask requirement has been well received,” Galanti said. “There have been some who have chosen not to shop here. But overall, the majority of the people have been supportive of it. We believe it’s to help slow the spread of the virus. If we’re right, we’re right. If we’re not right, it’s a relatively small inconvenience. We’re not trying to challenge anybody’s constitutional rights.

“All of these things were not done to help our business. We were trying to be responsible. We know there are differing viewpoints, but certainly our employees appreciate it. We have over 2 million people come into Costco every day. If someone comes in without a mask, we just ask them to leave.”

The viral video story was picked up media outlets national and international. The New York Post and Newsweek had stories. So did the Daily Mail of the United Kingdom.

By 8 p.m. Tuesday, the video had more than 9 million views on Twitter.

Billy Corben on sharing the video

“I’ve become a depository of these Florida-centric videos,” Corben said. “I think it’s just the nature of the scene. I’m not afraid to just put it all out there, so to speak, under my Twitter byline. I don’t have enough explanation other than my reputation precedes me.”

It’s just the latest in videos that either have provoked or depicted public outrage in the social media era. The ones depicting angry, white females have been nicknamed “Karens” and have shared in abundance in recent weeks on social media.

Some of them show racial injustice. This one shows fury and fear.

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Corben’s most successful projects have been “Cocaine Cowboy," about the Miami drug epidemic and related violence of the 1970s and '80s, and “The U,” a 30-for-30 segment about the University of Miami football dynasty that aired on ESPN.

“Costco Ken,” Corben said. “That’s what I call him. I don’t know that we have an official term yet for male Karens. There’s a lot of people calling him, ‘Chad,” which is ironic given it's the 20th anniversary of counting chads. Costco Cowboy. Maybe that will be my new documentary.”

Corben said he felt compelled to share the video because he viewed wearing masks as imperative during the global coronavirus pandemic to try and slow the spreading of the disease that has killed 3,841 people so far in Florida this year.

“The idea that we’re politicizing a public health crisis, we’re beyond that,” Corben said. “This is costing lives. There are people getting sick who shouldn’t be getting sick. There are people dying who shouldn’t be dying, because we are run by mayors and presidents who don’t believe in science."

Corben said he never intended anyone to lose their job over sharing the video.

“These things come down to timing, too,” he said. “You never know when something is going viral. This is a new time. Video is being recorded everywhere, all the time. You would hope it would encourage people to be nicer to strangers in public. But some are unfazed by the constant video surveillance. It’s unfortunate that people are going to be judged for the rest of their lives on one moment. Everybody has a bad day. Everybody has a bad moment. Buttons can be pushed the wrong way. With cell phone cameras, security and videos, we should reconsider our behavior.”

Connect with this reporter:David Dorsey (Facebook),@DavidADorsey (Twitter).

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: 'I feel threatened!' Viral outburst at Fort Myers Costco costs man his job