HANOVER TOWNSHIP, PA — It wasn’t as if the 35-year-old woman who coughed all over Gerrity Supermarket’s produce section, items in the bakery and the meat case Wednesday couldn’t suppress the potentially phlegm-filled explosions, Hanover Township police say after investigating what one of the store's owners called a “twisted prank.”
We’ve been told so many times to cough into our elbows to slow the spread of the new coronavirus that the behavior is rote for many of us.
The woman didn’t do that, either.
Police say she coughed all over the food at the Hanover Township grocery store on purpose and tried to scare the other shoppers — many of whom were probably already nervous about going to the grocery store as the virus spreads across Pennsylvania and America.
The woman made “verbal threats that she was sick while intentionally coughing and spitting saliva [and] bile” on the grocery items, the police department said in a news release.
And it cost the store $35,000, at least, Gerrity’s co-owner Joe Fasula wrote in a Facebook post. He hopes insurance will cover the loss, but he’s bracing for a rate increase next year.
“While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and well-being of our customers,” Fasula wrote. “We had no choice but to throw out all product she came in contact with.”
That food would have fed a lot of people.
“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food,” Fasula wrote. “While it is always a shame when food is wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing.”
As Gerrity’s employees were ejecting the woman from the store, she tried to steal a 12-pack of beer, police said.
The woman, who Patch isn’t identifying because she was referred to a local hospital for a mental evaluation, was charged with multiple felonies — two counts of terrorist threats, one count of threats to use a “biological agent” and one count of criminal mischief — and a misdemeanor count each of of criminal attempt to commit retail theft and disorderly conduct.
She is being held at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility on $50,000 cash bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on April 8.