Three people were arrested in the space of a few days for licking food and other items in grocery stores. The reported incidents ruined the merchandise and raised fears that the suspects might have been intentionally spreading the coronavirus. The alleged events took place on two separate continents.
In California, police arrested Jennifer Walker, 53, of South Lake Tahoe on felony vandalism charges. Authorities say that on Tuesday, Walker entered a Safeway store in the city and began licking various items, including costume jewelry, meat, and liquor, and then loading them into her cart.
“The employee informed the officers that all the items in the suspect’s shopping cart were deemed unsellable due to the cross-contamination,” according to a South Lake Tahoe police report.
Via NBC News, police spokesperson Lt. Shannon Laney said that officers in the community have dealt with Walker before.
“We’ve had local contact with her, we’re familiar with her,” Laney said while declining to give specifics due to privacy laws.
As of Wednesday, Walker remained in police custody in lieu of $10,000 bond.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in a separate and unrelated incident, police in the United Kingdom made two arrests for a similar crime, as The Liverpool Echo reports.
Police say that on Saturday, two men walked into a Sainsbury’s grocery store in Morecambe. They were captured on store security cameras allegedly licking their hands and then wiping them on meat and vegetables as well as on the handles of the store’s refrigerators.
Employees had to thoroughly clean and disinfect the store and its products afterward.
Inspector James Martin, of the Lancashire police department, said that if the men were playing a joke or a prank, it wasn’t a funny one.
“That anyone could think this sort of behavior is appropriate or amusing even in normal times is beyond me, but at this time of crisis when many people have been faced with empty shelves in some shops is flabbergasting,” he said.
In fact, it seems that the current pandemic has spurned pranksters, jokesters, or perhaps the mentally disturbed to pretend to spread the coronavirus, or appear to threaten to do so, at grocery stores in particular.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, in late March, police made arrests in two separate incidents in two states involving men who allegedly coughed at grocery stores and threatened to spread the coronavirus. In a New Jersey case, a customer allegedly took exception to a grocery store worker telling him that he was standing too close to her, then allegedly coughed on her and told her he had the virus. In a Pennsylvania case, a man allegedly made fun of an elderly customer for wearing a face mask, then made coughing sounds and told the victim he had coronavirus.