UPDATE: The recorded incident went viral, leading authorities to identify Debra Hunter as the suspect in the video. Read through the article or skip to the end for the update.
Another week, another individual caught on camera intentionally coughing on someone else. This time, one woman was recorded coughing on a cancer patient in a Pier 1 Imports store in Jacksonville, Florida. The woman went viral after the video was recorded and uploaded by Heather Read Sprague, the cancer patient. The internet is now identifying her as 52-year-old Debra Vecchio Hunter.
Sprague, who is currently battling a brain tumor, posted the incident to Facebook last Thursday. She wrote that she was in the store to avoid the heat while waiting for her nearby appointment. There she saw two small, unattended children and a “belligerent” woman at the register.
According to Sprague, the woman “was screaming at, swearing, insulting, and threatening the staff as she demanded to return an item she didn’t have with her, just a photo of the item on her phone.” The staff denied the return as she didn’t have the physical item with her. The woman, identified by the internet as Hunter, then blocked the staff’s exit of the register counter saying she would stay and yell until all the customers left.
Sprague took it upon herself to record from a distance, which is when Hunter turned her attention to Sprague. She wrote, “I did not speak, react, or engage. Simply stood to document the behavior.”
As the video shows, Hunter leaves shortly after the video begins, but not before approaching Sprague and coughing directly on her. Sprague ended her Facebook post by saying she was going to get tested for coronavirus after the incident.
Not the Only Case of Its Kind
Unfortunately, Sprague isn’t the only victim of this type of attack during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, a woman made headlines after deliberately coughing on a baby in a Yogurtland in San Jose, California. The act is something that could now be considered a crime.
One man, George Falcone, was arrested after intentionally coughing on a grocery store employee in Freehold, New Jersey. He was charged with Terroristic Threats (3rd Degree) and Harassment (Petty Disorderly Persons Offense).
According to a memo from the DOJ, “purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19” could be considered an act terrorism. This is due to COVID-19 meeting the definition of a “biological agent.” The memo reads, “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”
UPDATE — August 3
Hunter has been charged with assault and arrested, according to Newsweek.
Originally, Sprague only notified Pier 1 of the incident because she didn’t want to escalate the situation and call the police. Eventually, after four days, Sprague called police to report the incident, saying she began feeling unwell.
Hunter was soon booked into the Duval County jail on July 22 after being charged with misdemeanor assault and released the same day after posting bond.