Fake COVID coughers will ‘absolutely’ be prosecuted for Walmart stunt

Assistant County Attorney Jason Lane said the county will “absolutely” prosecute two Hesston residents accused of walking around the Newton Walmart on Monday evening, coughing on people and on items, claiming to have “coronavirus.”
“With the anxiety that all of us are having these days, for people to go out and scare others is unacceptable, and there needs to be consequences for these actions,” Lane said.

The couple, Ernest Williams, 47, Hesston, and Hazel Hamerick, 29, were arrested on felony criminal threat charges after video surfaced on social media showing a man loudly coughing in the Newton Walmart and the woman he was with saying he had “coronavirus.”

The person who posted the video, Paula Stout, noted in the social media post that “One of them fake coughed on the employee who was counting the customers. And while I was standing here writing this message to you, they walked past me, and she’s going down every aisle saying ‘he has coronavirus he has coronavirus he has coronavirus’ to every person she passes.”

Police identified the two in the video, tracked them down and questioned them.
“They indicated that they think it’s overblown and thought it was funny, but it’s not,” Newton Police Lt. Scott Powell said.

The two, as of 11 a.m. April 7, were housed in the county jail.
“We’re comparing it to going into an airport and announcing that you have a bomb in the shoe,” Powell said. “It’s not funny and scares the crap out of you. When a guy goes and coughs on you and the girl he’s with says he has the coronavirus, people feel threatened.”

Lane indicated that his office would also prosecute any similar situation.

“We’re going to take these incidents seriously,” he said.

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