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Customer accused of attacking Washington grocery store employee after mask dispute

When the store refused to serve him, the man tried to leave the store with $15 worth of merchandise and threw a bottle at an employee, authorities said.

Authorities are looking for a man accused of attacking a grocery store employee after a dispute over a mask.

The assault occurred Friday morning at the Grocery Outlet near Spokane, Washington, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said in a press release posted on the agency's Facebook page.

According to the release, a store employee told deputies the man ignored several requests to put on a mask inside the store. The state mandates face coverings in public spaces.

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"When the suspect approached the checkout stand, an employee refused to sell the approximate $15 worth of merchandise to the man," the sheriff's office said. "He became irate, and an argument ensued."

The man picked up the items and tried to leave the store without paying for them. Things escalated when the employee attempted to recover the merchandise.

"The suspect threw a coffee bottle at the employee, striking him in the head," the sheriff's office said. "The bottle fell on the ground and shattered. The suspect picked up a piece of the broken bottle, holding it a weapon, and threatened the employee. Eventually, he got into his car."

A Grocery Outlet location in Spokane, Wash.
A Grocery Outlet location in Spokane, Wash.Google Maps

The store provided authorities the license plate number, but authorities have not located the vehicle or the customer. The sheriff's office said the man faces charges of felony robbery and second-degree assault "for his poor decision to escalate the situation and become violent."

The employee who was struck in the head with the bottle declined medical attention at the scene, officials said.

The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for additional information.