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The Villages

Local couple thrown out of Busch Gardens after argument over face masks

Matthew Simonds

A local couple was thrown out of Busch Gardens theme park after an argument over face masks.

The couple visited the theme park in Tampa Bay with friends on Sept. 26, according to an arrest report from the Fruitland Park Police Department.

“After consuming too much alcohol, an argument started over wearing masks in public,” the report said.

Security was called and 33-year-old Matthew Simonds and his lady friend “were escorted from the park due to the argument.”

Busch Gardens has a policy that mandates that employees and guests 2 years of age and older must wear face coverings while in the park. Guests are not required to wear them while eating and drinking, or in designated relaxation areas of the park. Masks must cover the nose and mouth.

Simonds makes it clear on social media that he is a supporter of President Trump, who famously has cast doubt on the effectiveness of wearing masks to combat the Coronavirus. 

The couple returned to their home at 706 James Ave. in Fruitland Park where their argument continued. When Simonds’ girlfriend walked out of the bathroom, he “grabbed her from behind and started to choke her.” She managed to grab Simonds’ hand and bite his finger to make him let go. She fled the home and went to a friend’s house. Once police arrived at the friend’s house and Simonds’ girlfriend realized he was going to be arrested, she refused to provide a statement or allow the officer to take photographs. She “insisted” on returning to the home she shares with Simonds. She met police at the residence and said nothing had happened. She asked police to leave.

The New York native was arrested on a third degree felony charge of battery by strangulation. He was booked at the Lake County Jail and released after posting $2,000 bond.

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