Police: Missouri man who licked Walmart items to mock coronavirus charged with making terrorist threat

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A 26-year-old Missouri man was arrested this week after he allegedly made a video of himself licking items at a Walmart in an attempt to mock the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people across the globe.

The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Tuesday charged Cody Lee Pfister with making a terrorist threat in the second degree, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The incident took place on March 11 at the Warrenton Walmart, according to court records.

In the clip, Pfister looks at the camera and asks, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?” before licking a row of deodorant on the shelves.

The court documents state that Pfister “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed” and that he acted “with reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion” of Walmart.

He was taken into custody this week after the video circulated online and was reported by people across the U.S. and in other countries, including the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“We take these complaints very seriously and would like to thank all of those who reported the video so the issue could be addressed,” the Warrenton Police Department said in a statement.

Pfister was booked into the Warren County jail without bond.

The sheriff’s department wrote that it was “frustrating that we have to waste valuable resources on calls like this during these trying times.”

It is unclear if Pfister has exhibited any symptoms related to the coronavirus or whether he has been tested for it.

The Hill has reached out to Walmart and the Warrenton Police Department for comment.

This is not the first reported incident of people filming themselves coughing or touching their mouths to public surfaces during the ongoing pandemic, which has infected at least 60,115 people in the United States, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. 

A Virginia police department last week investigated reports that teenagers filmed themselves coughing on produce at a local grocery store and uploaded the videos to social media.

The police questioned two juveniles who admitted their involvement, and it was later determined that there was no criminal intent.

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