A Missouri man who licked items at a grocery store in a coronavirus-themed stunt that went viral online has been charged with making a terrorist threat.
Cody Pfister, 26, apparently filmed himself on March 11 rubbing his tongue across row of toiletries at a Walmart in Warrenton, Missouri, and then posted the video to Snapchat, according to court documents.
“Who’s afraid of the coronavirus?” Pfister says.
Text overlaying the footage reads: “I’m a nasty mothsfucker.”
The clip, which later made its way to Twitter, was viewed millions of times and provoked international backlash amid the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
The Warrenton Police Department said in a Monday statement announcing Prister’s arrest that they had received complaints from as far away as the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“We take these complaints very seriously and would like to thank all of those who reported the video so the issue could be addressed,” they said.
The Warren Country Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Pfister on Tuesday, the Riverfront Times reported. Making a terrorist threat is a low-level felony, according to the local newspaper.
“Good Morning Britain” cohost Piers Morgan had called on-air and online for Pfister to face harsh punishment.
“Find him, arrest him, imprison him, and deny him any healthcare if he gets the virus,” Morgan said on Twitter.
Find him, arrest him, imprison him, & deny him any healthcare if he gets the virus.
See how funny the disgusting little pr*ck finds it when his chest is collapsing & he can’t breathe. https://t.co/osWH8WOi2F
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 22, 2020
Cody Pfister isn’t the only American charged with coronavirus terrorism at the grocery store
Also Tuesday, New Jersey authorities said they had charged a local man with making terroristic threats after he was accused of coughing on a supermarket employee and saying he was infected with the coronavirus.
George Falcone, 50, George Falcone, 50, was issued a summons for terroristic threats in the third degree and other charges over the incident, according to the office of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
In a Facebook message to Reuters on Tuesday, Falcone denied the accusations, saying, “Didn’t cough on anyone and never mentioned corona.”
According to Grewal, Falcone was in a Wegman’s supermarket in Manalapan, New Jersey on Sunday evening when an employee asked him to step back from prepared foods while she covered them. Instead, prosecutors said, he leaned toward her and purposely coughed, laughing and saying he was infected with the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness known as COVID-19 that can be severe or fatal.
Falcone went on to tell two other employees that they were lucky to have jobs, and initially refused to identify himself when approached by a police officer.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy referred to the charges in a news conference on Tuesday, saying there were “knuckleheads out there” and that law enforcement was taking action against “egregious” behavior as the state locks down in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Nationwide, the coronavirus, which broke out late last year in Wuhan, China, has infected nearly 50,000 people and killed 640, with more than a quarter of the deaths in New York state.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)