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Man calls vaccine clinic workers ‘murderers’ before attack, California witnesses say

A California man was arrested on Dec. 30 after he was accused of attacking two vaccine clinic workers, local media reported.

A California man was arrested on Dec. 30 after he was accused of attacking two vaccine clinic workers, local media reported.

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A man attacked workers at a vaccine clinic in Orange County, injuring two people, local media reported.

There were 10 to 20 patients at the clinic in Tustin on Dec. 30 when a man identified as Thomas Apollo, 43, arrived. He became increasingly angry after being asked to wear a mask and then became violent, punching a medical assistant several times and hitting Parsia Jahanbani, the mobile operations manager of the organization running the clinic, at least once, Jahanbani told the Los Angeles Times.

Apollo also yelled that the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax before striking the employees, NBC San Diego reported. He was arrested and booked into the Orange County Jail on charges of battery and resisting arrest, and the case was forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review, the outlet reported.

The Tustin Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

Jahanbani told The Orange County Register that the clinic, operated by Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center, had been protested and picketed by people who believe the pandemic is a hoax and deny its death toll of over 800,000 Americans. But staffers had never seen Apollo before.

“It was always in the back of our mind that something worse could happen,” Jahanbani told the outlet. “But when it finally did, we were all still shocked.”

Apollo struck Jahanbani first, the Los Angeles Times reported. The medical assistant, who declined to be identified, attempted to pull Apollo away and ended up pinned underneath him, hit by punch after punch, Jahanbani told the Times.

All the while, Apollo accused clinic staff of being “murderers,” witnesses told The Orange County Register.

Two patients who were waiting for their booster shots helped Jahanbani and a security guard free the medical assistant. They all held Apollo down while they awaited police, The Orange County Register reported.

It took seven officers about 15 minutes to restrain Apollo, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cassie Rossel, a spokesperson for the community healthcare center, told the outlet that Apollo was shocked with stun guns about three times as he scratched officers.

The medical assistant was taken to the emergency room, the Los Angeles Times reported. He had bruising and swelling on his face, but no broken bones, according to The Orange County Register.

Families Together of Orange County addressed the incident in a statement, saying on Twitter that the attack would not deter it from helping people get vaccinated.

“While Families Together believes that vaccines are important in the fight against the pandemic, we understand that the decision to get vaccinated is purely personal,” the statement said. “However, we will not tolerate violence or harassment of any kind against our staff, patients or volunteers.”

The organization said in another statement on its website that the worker who was hospitalized was expected to make a full recovery.

“We’re proud of the strength and bravery of our team, and while this incident has shaken us, we will not be deterred from our mission to keep our community safe and healthy,” the Twitter statement said. “On the contrary, it has motivated us to fight even harder.”

The attack is one of numerous incidents involving the harassment of healthcare workers over the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine, The Washington Post reported.

In October, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law making it a misdemeanor in California for protesters to physically interfere with vaccination efforts or to intimidate or harass patients coming to clinics for vaccines, according to The Sacramento Bee.

That law was penned by state Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat from Sacramento, after protesters briefly shut down Dodger Stadium last January while the venue was operating as a mass vaccination site, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Despite the attack, Jahanbani said that many patients have expressed gratitude for the clinic’s work.

“That’s what makes us have the energy to go back to work in the morning and put in a 12-hour shift,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Tustin is about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.

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