Police hunt for 'COVID hug' man who grabbed strangers at Walmart


Published by ABCNEWS.GO.COM

Summary generated on August 23, 2020


    Police are searching for a man who they say approached multiple strangers at a Walmart and embraced them before telling them he had just given them.

    The incident occurred on Saturday, Aug. 15 at approximately 7:10 p.m. at a Walmart branch in Springfield, Massachusetts, when the man allegedly began randomly approaching customers and hugging them.

    According to the Springfield Police Detective Bureau, the suspect was pictured at the Walmart location wearing a black t-shirt and camouflage shorts as he approached people and gave them the hostile hugs.

    "This suspect took an item out of a victim's hands and then gave him a hug," the Springfield Police Department said in a post shared on social media.

    "He told the victim 'just giving you a COVID hug. You now have COVID.'".

    Authorities say the suspect then started laughing before walking away.

    The victim, who police did not identify, is a cancer survivor and had never seen the suspect before.

    Police say that he had done this to other customers before and it is not known if the man actually had coronavirus at the time of the incident.

    According to Masslive.com, the suspect is now being sought for assault and battery and making terroristic threats.

    Even if the man has not tested positive for COVID-19, saying that he has it and approaching people in a menacing way could constitute a threat under Massachusetts state law.

    Massachusetts state law says that anyone who communicates a threat either directly or indirectly, orally, in writing "Or by other means" can be charged with making terroristic threats.