Man Allegedly Opens Fire After Being Confronted for Coughing Without Covering His Mouth Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

A man allegedly opened fire on a car and its occupant after an argument spun out of control when he was confronted for coughing without covering his mouth while walking in a parking lot.

Police say Guillermo Alvarez, 56, exploded with rage after he was called out for the unsanitary behavior in front of a Sheetz convenience store and gas station in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

A heated argument began when Alvarez was told by 53-year old William Sauro to cover his mouth while coughing "because of the virus that is going around," according to The Associated Press. The argument escalated and allegedly resulted in Sauro striking Alvarez with his vehicle, before shots were fired at the car.

Surveillance footage of the incident shows Alvarez stopping in front of the store and looking back at Sauro, who was seated in his car when he apparently made the remark about Alvarez coughing.

Medical experts recommend limiting the spread of the highly contagious and potentially deadly virus by covering the mouth while coughing. Alvarez apparently did not appreciate Sauro repeating this advice and the two men began to argue before a physical confrontation began when Sauro left his car.

Sauro eventually returned to his car and purportedly drove it into the legs of Alvarez, who braced himself by holding the hood of the car, according to police. Alvarez then allegedly pulled out a concealed .45 handgun and shot at Sauro's car several times in response, striking the windshield and tires, with one bullet lodged in the car's speedometer.

Sauro then drove home and called 911. Police responding to the scene found Alvarez with the gun still in his hand. He dropped the weapon when told to by police. He did not have a concealed weapon permit.

Both men were charged with recklessly endangering another person and aggravated assault, with Alvarez also facing a weapons charge. Neither men were seriously injured during the incident. Sauro was released on Monday after posting bail, while Alvarez was still behind bars as of Tuesday.

"We are living in trying and uncertain times right now, and everyone needs to exercise patience with one another and not resort to violence." Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer told WJAC. "Special thanks go out to our first responders, including the Police, who throughout this pandemic continue to work with the public every day to ensure the health and safety of our community."

Newsweek reached out to Johnstown police for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Gun pointed at camera
An argument that started when a man was confronted for failing to cover his mouth while coughing allegedly led to a vehicle striking the man before he pulled out a concealed handgun and opened fire. Getty