PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla (WFLA) – Police officers have one more thing to worry about when they are protecting people and enforcing the law these days. Suspects are now attacking officers with threats of coronavirus.
Officers say they are seeing suspects threaten to infect them with COVID-19. Whether they actually have it or not this could spell more trouble and charges for them.
“What we’re finding out, now that we’re arresting people, they’re all saying they have the virus,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said.
In Pinellas County alone, there were two cases over the weekend of suspects attacking officers with bodily fluids.
At the Bay Pines emergency room, police say Thomas Salveggi was drunk, causing a scene and attacking medical providers. The arrest report states he coughed in the face of the arresting officer “where he could feel his breath and spit” and told him, “I have coronavirus.”
In St. Petersburg, police showed up to find James Curry violating a no-contact order at his girlfriend’s home. Police say he spit on an officer and told them he was “infected with COVID-19.”
“If the test came back positive that the person did have that, then the officer – he or she – could add on additional charges,” said Chief Holloway.
Police later found Curry did not show symptoms of the coronavirus nor was he ever tested for it.
“Even if you didn’t have the virus, spitting on an officer is a third-degree felony – battery on a police officer,” said Roger Futerman of Roger Futerman and Associates.
Legal experts and law enforcement authorities say this reminds them of action taken to criminalize the intentional spread of HIV to unknowing partners.
“Ultimately if this was a long term issue, there would be a similar legislative statue I’m sure to make it a corresponding crime,” said Futerman.
8 On Your Side’s Marco Villarreal asked Chief Holloway if his officers are nervous to go out right now.
“I wouldn’t say they’re nervous. They’re just being extra careful. Just like you and I. We’re being careful right now. We have a job to do and that’s why we come to work,” said Chief Holloway.
Bay Pines VA police had this to say about their arrest over the weekend:
“At all times, we take the safety, health, and well-being of veterans, visitors, and staff seriously. Our expectation is that those who visit our facilities adhere to a code of conduct rooted in respect.”
The state attorney’s office has requested Curry be tested for COVID-19. St. Pete police are monitoring the arresting officer in case she shows symptoms.
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