A 26-year-old Missouri man who authorities say was seen in a social media video licking items at a Walmart to mock fears of the coronavirus pandemic was arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat.
Cody Lee Pfister posted a video of himself licking deodorants at the Warrenton store on March 11, according to court documents. As he wiped his tongue across the packages, he asked, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Pfister was arrested Monday.
The Warrenton Police Department said in a Facebook post that it received calls from local residents, as well as people overseas in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom, to report the video.
“We take this incident very seriously, especially with this infectious disease and the state that the country is in,” Lt. Justin Unger said. “We take these things seriously to protect our community.”
A criminal complaint states that Pfister “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed” by posting the video online. He appeared in court Wednesday and is due back in May.
The lawyer, Patrick J. Coyne, told the Post-Dispatch that the video was recorded the day before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and that “public conduct that was immature on March 10 looks completely differently through the lens of today.”
“Everything has changed at warp speed, but that should not work retroactively and convert a tasteless and impulsive act into a criminal terrorist threat,” the newspaper quoted Coyne as saying.
A New Jersey man was charged with making a terroristic threat and harassment after he was alleged to have purposely coughed on a Wegmans grocery store employee and said he had the coronavirus.
New Jersey’s attorney general said that the employee asked the man, George Falcone, 50, to step back but that instead Falcone leaned forward and coughed in the worker’s face. Falcone laughed and said he had been infected with the virus, the attorney general said.