Man who deliberately coughed on elderly person saying he had coronavirus charged with making 'terrorist threat'
Incident happened on same day when a Justice Department official announced that those who threaten to or intentionally spread coronavirus could be charged with terrorist threats
A 57-year-old man in Pennsylvania has been charged with making terrorist threats after he allegedly coughed on an elderly person who was shopping at a Karns grocery store during a seniors-only time. North Middleton Township Police charged Daniel Tabussi with the crime the same day a senior official from the Justice Department announced that those who threaten to or intentionally spread coronavirus could be charged with terrorist threats.
The elderly citizen, who has not been identified, is recovering from pneumonia and had gone to the grocery store wearing a medical face mask and gloves at the time of the incident on March 20, according to KTXS report. Authorities said that the victim wore the protective items because they are at a higher risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus infection. Elderly, immunocompromised, and people with prior health conditions are at high risk of contractive the novel coronavirus.
Police described Tabussi as having intentionally coughed near the victim while mocking them at the store located on 1700 block of Spring Road. The suspect reportedly told the victim numerous times that he had Covid-19.
Tabussi, along with the terrorist threat charges, has also been charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment, reports state.
Deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen released a memo on Tuesday, stating that there may be cases where people are deliberately spreading the novel coronavirus. His memo, released to prosecutors and department leaders across the country, warned that they may encounter "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," Rosen wrote, according to Politico. "Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated." The Justice Department, additionally, has also set up a task force to investigate cases of hoarding and price gouging amidst the coronavirus crisis.
In a similar case in the United States on Tuesday, there was another report of an individual deliberately coughing on people. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, on March 24, revealed that a man from Manalapan deliberately coughed on a female employee at a Wegmans food store on Sunday. The man was identified as George Falcone from Freehold.
The incident unfolded when a Wegmans' employee asked Falcone to step back while she covered items at the prepared food section where there was an open display. The woman was reportedly concerned that Falcone was standing too close to where she was, according to prosecutors. The suspect then allegedly leaned towards her and deliberately coughed and then laughed later telling her he has the coronavirus.
Authorities, apart from the charges of the terrorism threat, have also charged Falcone with obstruction and harassment charges, reports state.
The United States, as of Wednesday, has recorded over 53,000 confirmed cases of the deadly novel coronavirus and more than 700 lives have been lost to Covid-19. The coronavirus cases, worldwide, has crossed over 400,000 infected cases and over 19,000 deaths linked to the infection.