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Van driver punched, robbed after mask dispute in Valley Stream, Nassau police say

A van driver near Valley Stream’s Green Acres Mall was punched and robbed Wednesday afternoon after admonishing a passenger for repeatedly removing a mandatory face mask, according to the Nassau County Police Department.

Failing to wear a face covering violates a special state rule for the coronavirus pandemic.

Frederick Thomas, 24, of Far Rockaway — who police said removed his mask — and another passenger, Tajh Parker, 19, of Cambria Heights, were later arrested and charged with second-degree robbery, according to a police department news release sent early Thursday morning.

Under a New York State rule enacted to stop the spread of the coronavirus, any passenger over age 2 in a public or private vehicle service must wear a face covering. The virus has infected at least 957,412 New Yorkers and killed 29,905 of them, according to the state COVID-19 tracker.

The driver, 60, had asked Thomas to stop removing his mask covering his face and mouth. There was an argument, and the driver stopped to let Thomas out. That’s when Thomas punched the driver in the neck, and Parker took cash from the driver’s hand, according to the release.

Thomas and Parker were arrested some time afterward following a "thorough investigation," according to the news release, which didn’t elaborate.

The two were scheduled for arraignment Thursday at First District Court in Mineola. Their bail status was unclear in online court records.

Neither man could be reached for comment, and it wasn't apparent whether they were represented by legal counsel.

The release says the driver was operating a "transport van," and the release gave no details about who the van belonged to or its route.

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