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Police make arrest in case of Navy sailor berated, hit on Sept. 11 during rant captured in viral TikTok video

Berlin, CT police are looking to identify a woman accused of an assault on a US Navy sailor (Berlin Police Department/Released)

A woman who police said berated and struck a uniformed military member in a Berlin pizza restaurant Sept. 11 — and was captured in a video that went viral — has been arrested.

Lori Desjardins, 45, of Mount Vernon Road in Southington was charged with third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace, police said Friday. She turned herself in Thursday at the police station, where she was processed and released on a promise to appear in Superior Court in New Britain Sept. 23.

A TikTok video of Desjardins yelling at, cursing at and appearing to slap the Navy sailor, Sean Nolte Jr., went viral across social media platforms, drawing outrage from people who noted the encounter happened on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Desjardins worked at Aetna’s CVS Health. In response to queries, Aetna tweeted Thursday that she no longer works there. Desjardins could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Despite Nolte’s uniform, Desjardins apparently thought he was not actually in the military when she saw him Saturday in Central Pizza.

In a Facebook post, Nolte described the encounter.

He said the woman yelled, “He is a fake by the way, my husband is in the Army.”

She then discredited the ID he produced, he said.

“She kept claiming that my military ID is fake, and proceeds to show me her dependent military ID, and screams ‘This is what your ID should look like,’ ‘’ he wrote.

The video apparently begins at about that point, and the encounter escalates. The woman is seen grabbing Nolte’s black cap off the counter and flinging it down, prompting a restaurant worker to warn her to leave.

“Ma’am, you’re on camera — I would leave now before I call the police,” the off-camera worker warns.

The woman becomes more irate, and approaches the camera.

“Ma’am, you’re not allowed to grab my phone, you’re not permitted to grab his hat,” the off-camera worker says.

She points in Nolte’s direction and yells “You disgrace the USA … that is not a uniform you (profanity).”

“In a last-ditch effort to leave, she rushes towards me and slaps me in the left side of my face,” Nolte wrote. “Being in uniform, I must maintain professionalism, so I stand there and proceed to wish her a nice day.”

At some point late Saturday night, after seeing Nolte’s Facebook post, an acquaintance apparently posted the video on TikTok, and someone else added it to the comments on Nolte’s Facebook page.

Nolte, whose Facebook page describes him as a submarine electronics fire control technician, is serving with the U.S. Navy in Groton. He is from Harrisburg, Pa., where he is a volunteer firefighter.

Two months ago, a Pennsylvania TV station interacted with Nolte in a much more positive way: It featured him in a public service message, saying, “We salute you, and thank you for your service.”

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© 2021 Hartford Courant

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