Florida Man Arrested After Allegedly Spraying Substance on Business Doors, Telling Patrons They Were Now Infected With Coronavirus

A Florida man was arrested over the weekend after allegedly spraying a substance on a business's doors and telling customers that it contained COVID-19.

David Randolph White, 50, was detained on Sunday by deputies from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) after being identified during an investigation conducted alongside the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. The arrest was confirmed by inmate records filed by the region's Department of Corrections.

Officers were dispatched to a local business just before noon after receiving a call about an "intentional COVID-19 contamination incident," JSO said.

At the scene, witnesses said the man had approached the store holding a container that was labeled "COVID-19," the infectious disease caused by a novel coronavirus.

According to witnesses, the suspect sprayed the unknown substance "on and around" the entrance doors before telling employees and patrons in the area that "they were now infected with COVID-19," the JSO said on Facebook, also posting the suspect's mugshot.

Authorities said White was "identified early on" and quickly apprehended for questioning. He was arrested on the charge of "manufacturing, possession, sale, delivery, display, use, or attempted or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction or hoax weapon of mass destruction."

The local business that was allegedly targeted by the suspect, not identified by the sheriff's office by name, took precautionary measures and the affected area was swiftly cleaned and sanitized.

The charge is a first-degree felony that is punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine that does not exceed $10,000-$15,000.

U.S. law enforcement is taking a strict approach to crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now resulted in at least 143,000 confirmed cases in the country, tracking data suggests.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen wrote in a memo dated March 24 that criminal activity exploiting the outbreak or targeting the public could be met with terrorism-related charges.

Rosen wrote in the letter (via Politico): "Because coronavirus appears to be the statutory definition of a 'biological agent'... such acts potentially could implicate the nation's terrorism-related statutes. Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated."

Last week, a California man was arrested by the FBI after posting Instagram videos claiming he had developed a cure for novel coronavirus patients. Keith Middlebrook, 53, allegedly solicited financial investments for a company that he claimed was creating and selling the bogus medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The FTC stresses there are currently no "pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure" the infectious respiratory illness.

Anyone with more information about the Jacksonville incident or the suspect has been asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks.
  • Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
David Randolph White
Suspect mughot: David Randolph White, 50. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office