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Police: Man Charged with Terrorist Threat After Intentionally Coughing on Others

A Missouri man has been arrested for allegedly intentionally coughing on customers in a Dollar Tree store.
John Swaller, 33, faces a charge of making a terrorist threat in the second degree, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The incident took place Tuesday in Cuba, Missouri, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Cuba police summarized the incident on the department’s Facebook page.
“Upon officers arriving, they spoke to the employee who reported the incident. The employee stated there had been a male subject inside of the store who had been purposely coughing toward other customers in the store,” the department said. 
“The employee also stated that the same male had written COVID on the inside of a cooler door with his fingers after breathing on it. It was also alleged the male had placed his hands down his pants and then rubbed a cooler door handle,” it said.
“As a result of his actions, the store was closed and sanitized,” the department said.
Cuba Police Chief Doug Shelton said it was unclear whether Swaller has the coronavirus.
He said police used protective gear when Swaller was arrested and taken to jail.
“I feel that it worries a lot of the residents of Cuba,” Shelton said. “It has angered a lot of people.”
The Post-Dispatch said it reached Swaller’s father by phone and he said his son does not have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Swaller could face up to four years in prison on a charge of second-degree making a terrorist threat. He was locked up in lieu of $25,000 bail. 
Last week, police in Warren County, west of St. Louis, arrested a man who was accused of licking a row of deodorant products at a Walmart and then posting a video of himself asking, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?” according to the Post-Dispatch.
Cody Lee Pfister, 26, of Warrenton, was also charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree.
Pfister “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed,” court documents state, adding that he acted “with reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion” of Walmart, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Patrick J. Coyne, the attorney representing Pfister, said the incident took place March 10, which was before the World Health Organization labeled COVID-19 a pandemic.
“Public conduct that was immature on March 10 looks completely differently through the lens of today,” Coyne said. “Everything has changed at warp speed, but that should not work retroactively and convert a tasteless and impulsive act into a criminal terrorist threat.”

Swaller’s case is similar to that of a New Jersey man who was charged with terrorism after coughing on a store clerk there.

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