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

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

South Surrey nurse Brittany Williams has been involved with the Burn Camp since 2013. (Contributed photo)
Burn camp ‘really puts things in perspective,’ says South Surrey nurse

Brittany Williams’ experiences hoped to boost Hometown Heroes Lottery fundraiser

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Serena Deol, Jaspreet Deol, Madison Sweeney and Tanveer Pannu (pictured clockwise from top left) are Surrey United soccer players recruited to the University of Fraser Valley. (submitted photos)
Surrey United soccer quartet sign to play for UFV Cascades

Three of the university’s recruits are Panorama Ridge Secondary students

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

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

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read