Exclusive: Minnesota mom upset after son with autism was kicked out of supermarket for not wearing mask

The incident happened at Hugo's in Thief River Falls
Loni Padilla and her autistic son were kicked out of a Hugo's supermarket in Thief River Falls...
Loni Padilla and her autistic son were kicked out of a Hugo's supermarket in Thief River Falls because her son wasn't wearing a mask.(KVLY)
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 6:16 PM CDT
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THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. (Valley News Live) - A Minnesota mom is upset over what happened to her son with autism who was kicked out of a supermarket for not having a mask.

Loni Padilla told Valley News Live in an exclusive interview that she stopped into Hugo’s Family Marketplace in Thief River Falls on Monday night to grab dinner before it closed.

Once inside, Padilla said the store’s manager approached her.

“There’s nobody in the store. And you know, I wasn’t going through the whole store shopping an hour in there. Just running in, getting food, and leaving,” she said.

She was reportedly asked to leave the store because 10-year-old Makuyi, who is severely autistic, wasn’t wearing a mask. Padilla described the experience as embarrassing and said Makuyi has the cognitive ability of a two year old.

“We go into stores and get looks and people are saying things when they hear him. He’s nonverbal but he’s not quiet,” she said.

Padilla added there was a lack of empathy from the manager that day as she wasn’t given any other option but to leave with her son.

“He doesn’t understand when you tell him that he has to do something, or he’ll have a melt down if I did put a mask on him,” Padilla said.

Hugo’s began requiring customers at its Minnesota stores to wear masks while shopping last Saturday. For its North Dakota stores, the mask requirements began on Wednesday.

The majority of health experts believe a wearing mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are certain exceptions, including for children under the age of six.

In a response to Padilla’s concerns, Hugo’s told Valley News Live the actions taken on Monday go against its mask policy.

The supermarket chain added it’s more concerned with asymptomatic and presymptomatic people.

“People don’t understand when they see a parent wearing a mask and a child isn’t, that the child maybe can’t wear a mask,” Padilla said.

During a week when the United States just marked the 30th anniversary of signing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Padilla said this action feels like a step backwards.

Hugo’s, on the other hand, told us it’s trying to do its best in taking care of employees, customers, and the community.

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