A man coughed on a grocery store employee in Moorhead while blaming racial minorities for the spread of the coronavirus, police said Thursday.
The incident on Wednesday at a Cash Wise store on Hwy. 10 briefly landed the man in jail on suspicion of disorderly conduct and for allegedly threatening the life of the officer who arrested him, said Police Capt. Deric Swenson.
The suspect has refused to give police his name, and authorities have yet to determine his identity, Swenson said late Thursday morning. He said the man is Latino.
"It wasn't like he was coughing all over the place," Swenson said. "But we believe he had intent" to harm the employee.
According to police:
The man became frustrated using the self-checkout lane and coughed on a white female employee who tried to help him. The employee quickly backed away.
A black male employee intervened, and that's when the man said that racial minorities, namely blacks and others of Asian descent, are to blame for the coronavirus pandemic.
Police caught up with the suspect down the street and arrested him.
Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said that, as they do with all arriving suspects during the pandemic, jail personnel were wearing "full protective equipment."
The man was put in a new-arrival pod with a heating and cooling system that is equipped to "pull all the bad air out" but not have it circulate in the rest of the facility.
Empting said the man would have been tested for coronavirus "if he is showing signs." The sheriff said the man was not tested and was released after about two hours as police prepare a case for consideration of charges.