A man in Missouri has been charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree after filming what was, at best, a very bad joke about the coronavirus.
The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Cody Lee Pfister, 26, on Tuesday after he posted a video of himself licking merchandise inside a Walmart, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In the video (above), which has gone viral online, Pfister looks at the camera and says, “Who’s afraid of coronavirus? Don’t touch your mouth,” before licking a row of deodorant sticks on the store’s shelf.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the coronavirus could stay on various surfaces for hours or days, meaning someone who comes in contact with something that an infected person has already touched could become infected.
Pfister — whom the Post-Dispatch reports has quite a rap sheet, including burglary and driving while intoxicated — “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed,” court documents state, according to the Post-Dispatch. He also acted “with reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion” of Walmart.
A statement from the City of Warrenton Police Department on Monday said that “a local resident who took a video of themselves licking the merchandise after making a ‘Corona Virus’ statement at Walmart and posting it to social media has been taken into custody.” The statement noted that concerned people around the world have contacted the department about the video.
Unfortunately, videos of people touching, coughing and licking public surfaces since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have appeared across social media platforms. Some were part of a social media trend called the “Corona Challenge.”
Yet currently, many videos with a #coronachallenge hashtag are jokes about quarantine, lack of necessities or people poking fun at those who put the public at risk.
On Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen released a memorandum suggesting that federal law enforcement officials across the country use terrorism laws to investigate and prosecute individuals who try to intentionally infect others with the coronavirus, The Washington Post reports.
Pfister’s docket hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, the Post-Dispatch reports. The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for Pfister’s court documents.