Man Allegedly Grabs Customer At Walmart, Hugs Him, Then Tells Him He Now Has COVID

The victim was a cancer survivor
A Walmart store in Quincy, MA, pictured on May 5, 2020, has now closed after a worker died due to COVID-19.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

On Aug. 15, a heavily-muscled young man allegedly approached a customer at a Walmart in Springfield, Massachusetts, grabbed an item he was holding, hugged him, then informed him he had received a “Covid hug” and had contracted the coronavirus.

Then the young man reportedly walked away laughing.

According to the Springfield police, not only had the suspect committed the same action with other customers, the initial customer referred to was a cancer survivor, possibly making him even more vulnerable to the coronavirus because his immune system might have been compromised already.

The Springfield Police Department stated on Facebook:

The Springfield Police Detective Bureau is seeking your help to identify this individual from an incident at the Walmart on Boston Road on Saturday August 15th around 7:10 p.m.  This suspect took an item out of a victim’s hands and then gave him a hug. He told the victim “Just giving you a Covid hug. You now have Covid.” The suspect then started laughing and walked away. The victim, who is a cancer survivor, had never seen the suspect before.

This suspect had done this to other customers as well.

The Springfield Police Detective Bureau is seeking your help to identify this individual from an incident at the Walmart…

Posted by Springfield Police Department on Friday, August 21, 2020

“The suspect is being sought for assault and battery and making terroristic threats, police spokesman Ryan Walsh told MassLive,” according to Fox News.

On March 24, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Jeffrey A. Rosen, issued a memo to all heads of law enforcement components, heads of litigating divisions, and United States attorneys, stating that intentionally exposing someone to the coronavirus could be seen as a terrorist act:

As you know. we have seen an unfortunate array of criminal activity related to the ongoing COVID~19 pandemic. Capitalizing on this crisis to reap illicit profits or othe1wisc preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated. I am issuing this Memorandum to inform you of the sorts of schemes that have been reported. to identify certain authorities that I am directing you to consider deploying against these schemes, and to emphasize the importance of state and local coordination during this difficult time.

He added:

You may encounter criminal activity ranging from malicious hoaxes, to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public, to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19. Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a “biological agent”) … such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes. … Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.

Rosen concluded, “While the Department of Justice is the world’s premier law enforcement institution, we cannot protect the public from these schemes alone. Your Office is thus encouraged to work closely with state and local authorities to ensure both that we hear about misconduct as quickly as possible and that all appropriate enforcement tools are available to punish it. … We must do the best we can to protect Americans’ rights and safety in this novel and troubling time.”

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