"We have zero tolerance for this despicable behavior," said a local sheriff about the 23-year-old's alleged intentional coughing

By Benjamin VanHoose
March 31, 2020 10:37 AM
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Martin County Sheriffs Office

A Florida man is now facing charges after allegedly purposely coughing on a member of law enforcement after claiming to have the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office said 23-year-old Christian Perez was taken into custody and charged with assault and threat to a public servant on a law enforcement officer for the coughing action.

According to a press release, Perez was initially pulled over for reckless driving. He then told the deputy who stopped him that he currently was infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the contagious respiratory virus that can be spread through coughs and sneezes.

The officer provided Perez with a face mask so he could cover his mouth during the encounter. Authorities said that Perez then removed the mask and began “intentionally coughing” in the officer’s direction. To minimize further spread, the officer put the mask back over Perez’s mouth.

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Perez was also arrested for allegedly driving under the influence and driving without a license.

It was not immediately clear whether Perez had a representative for PEOPLE to reach for comment.

“We have zero tolerance for this despicable behavior, and anyone who threatens the health and lives of my deputies will face the maximum charges,” said Sheriff William Snyder in a statement.

There have been several other recent instances of intentional coughing leading to arrests earlier this month as the public and experts learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic.

A New Jersey man was accused of making a “terroristic threat” for coughing toward a grocery store employee, according to The New York Times, and a Pennsylvania woman was recently arrested after purposely coughing on grocery store inventory in a “twisted prank,” NBC News reported.

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