When a cigar shop clerk told Adam Zaborowski on Friday he had to wear a mask in the shop, the 35-year-old angrily refused. Instead, he grabbed two stogies, stormed outside — and then pulled a handgun and shot at the clerk, Bethlehem Township, Pa., police said.
The next day, cornered near his home, Zaborowski allegedly fired at police with an AK-47, sparking a wild shootout with at least seven officers that ended with him shot multiple times and under arrest.
The case is the latest violent incident tied to arguments over mandatory mask orders. But Zaborowski’s reaction was driven by his own intense difficulty with the pandemic, his attorney claimed; before the shootout, Zaborowski had lost his job and had also recently lost custody of his child.
“He just wasn’t dealing well with the loss of his job, the loss of his child, just not handling the pandemic well,” John Waldron told the Express-Times on Sunday, while noting those factors didn’t justify his violent conduct. “I think he was getting stretched too tight.”
Zaborowski’s alleged rampage started Friday morning at Cigars International in Bethlehem Township, where he adamantly argued he didn’t have to wear a mask, even after a clerk offered to serve him curbside.
“It’s crazy,” said Tom Gallagher, who was shopping in the store at the time. “It’s the mask. The guy was obviously anti-mask.”
After Zaborowski walked out without paying for his cigars, police say he fired his gun once in the air and twice at a clerk who confronted him outside. Multiple customers were also sitting outside the shop in the direction he fired.
The next morning, police and state troopers were waiting to arrest Zaborowski outside his home in Slatington, Pa., when he hopped in a truck and drove off, police told the Express-Times. When they stopped him nearby, he jumped out of the vehicle and started firing at police with the AK-47 and a semiautomatic handgun.
“Both the Slatington Borough officer and troopers returned fire and struck Zaborowski,” State Trooper Nathan Branosky said in a news release.
Zaborowski was hit in the buttocks and leg, Waldron said, and is expected to recover.
“The fact that he got shot twice with non-life-threatening injures when he had an AK-47 and another handgun, Adam is very fortunate he ended up the way he did,” Waldron told the Express-Times.
He is now charged with 22 counts including attempted homicide, aggravated assault and robbery, the Express-Times reported, and is being held on $1 million bail.
Depending on who you talk to in Ohio, Dr. Amy Acton is the most loved — or the most loathed — woman in the state these days.
On one hand, Acton, the director of the state Department of Health, has drawn widespread praise for spearheading the fight against the coronavirus along with Gov. Mike DeWine.
The first woman to hold the post, Acton’s daily briefings have become must-see TV in the Buckeye State.
“Many Ohioans trust Dr. Acton because they sense that she not only understands what she’s doing and how it justifies the policies being implemented, but also that she understands how difficult it is for her audience to accept the news that she is delivering and the restrictions that are being imposed on their lives,” said Christopher Devine, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton.
On the other hand, Acton is now the target of angry Ohioans frustrated by the weeks of quarantine who are convinced the state overreacted to a threat that has claimed more than 1,270 lives in the state. Small but loud groups of demonstrators have picketed outside her house, drawing the ire of DeWine.
“I’m the elected official who ran for office. I’m the one who makes policy decisions. Members of my Cabinet work hard, but I set the policy,” DeWine said. “You can demonstrate against me — that’s fair game. To bother the family of Dr. Acton, that’s not fair game. It’s not right. It’s not necessary. The buck stops here. I’m the responsible person.”
But it’s not just sign-carrying protesters who are mad at Acton. Just this week, the Republican-led Legislature moved to curb Acton’s powers even though she works for a GOP governor.
DeWine was also forced to defend Acton after a local GOP legislator compared her actions to save Ohioans from the coronavirus to what the Nazis did during the Holocaust. Acton is Jewish.
“Ohio is much more Republican at the state level than most Americans would think” Devine said, and it has a conservative Legislature that was already bristling at some of the steps DeWine and Acton took to shut down the state.
“In other ways, though, the backlash against Dr. Acton is probably a general venting of frustration against the difficult circumstances we face and the awful sacrifices they require,” Devine said.
There is also another factor at play, the professor added.
“Let’s be honest,” Devine said. “The fact is many of these restrictions are being announced and enacted by a woman in power, in a state that has put very few women in major leadership roles.”
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Acton did not respond to a request for comment.
Born Amy Stearns, the once obscure 54-year-old public health official grew up poor in gritty Youngstown, Ohio.
Acton in interviews has described a difficult childhood rife with hunger, homelessness and neglect that stabilized once she moved in with her father. She was a top student and managed to be named Homecoming Queen during her senior year of high school in 1984.
Acton worked her way through college and became a pediatrician before earning a master’s degree in public health at Ohio State University, where she also worked for a time as a professor.
Along the way, she married and divorced her first husband, with whom she had three children. She is now married to Eric Acton, a middle school teacher and track coach who has three children of his own. They live in the Columbus suburb of Bexley.
DeWine made Acton his final Cabinet pick despite the fact that she and the governor don’t appear to be on the same political page. She is a registered Democrat, records show.
With her trademark white lab coat and emphatic hand gestures, she has become an icon to little girls who post videos of themselves pretending to be “Dr. Amy.”
On Tuesday, The New York Times posted an op-ed video with the headline “The Leader We Wish We All Had” that sought to explain how Acton has endeared herself to so many Ohioans.
“She wasn’t just the brains behind the state’s early, aggressive, coronavirus response; she was also its most effective messenger,” the accompanying text read.
But on the same day, Acton’s home was besieged by angry protesters demanding an end to the state’s tough stay-at-home measures and by coronavirus skeptics with a few religious bigots thrown in.
One protester carried a sign that referred to John 7:1 in the Scriptures, according to photos published by The Cleveland Jewish News.
“After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee,” the line says. “He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death.”
Meanwhile, DeWine took state Sen. Andrew Brenner to the woodshed after he and his wife both posted comments that appeared to be anti-Semitic.
“The comments showed a complete lack of understanding of the Holocaust — made even more offensive by posting on Holocaust Memorial Day — and was a slur on a good, compassionate and honorable person who had worked nonstop to save lives and protect her fellow citizens,” DeWine said in a statement.
Brenner, who also is a Republican, insisted he was misquoted.
In addition to the personal attacks, Acton has faced attempts to curtail her ability to combat coronavirus. On Wednesday, a GOP-dominated state House of Representatives passed an amendment that would place limits on any new orders by the state health director.