Cops in the United Kingdom say suspects are weaponizing the coronavirus by spitting, coughing and attacking on-duty officers, according to reports.
Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Wells issued a warning Wednesday after two Saturday incidents in Leigh-on-Sea and Ongar, where cops were coughed on or bitten as they made arrests, the Essex Chronicle reports.
“Unbelievably, this weekend we have seen suspects using the COVID-19 virus as a weapon against officers — who, in these incredibly challenging times, continue in their duty to keep the community safe,” Wells said.
“In just a 12-hour period, we had officers who had been kicked, spat, and coughed at after responding to emergency calls from shop workers, who were also just doing their job.”
Essex police responded to a Tesco Express in Ongar early Saturday after workers reported a man drove off with stolen alcohol.
The 25-year-old man then allegedly coughed at and bit officers who later took him into custody.
The suspect, who was not immediately identified, is now facing charges including suspicion of theft and common assault on an emergency worker. He has been released on bail ahead of an April 8 court appearance, the newspaper reports.
Later Saturday, Essex cops responded to Tesco Express in Leigh-on-Sea, where an employee said he had been assaulted. The suspect, Andrew Tilley, 28, then coughed at, kicked and spat on cops as he was arrested, according to the newspaper.
Tilley, who appeared in court Monday, pleaded guilty to charges including assaulting an emergency worker, drunk driving and assault by beating. He’s set to be sentenced on April 21, Metro reports.
“Our role is to help people and keep them safe and there are simply no excuses for assaulting officers,” Essex Police Federation chairman Sgt. Stephen Taylor said. “To be spat and coughed at during these unprecedented times is not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, in London, a man who coughed on cops while claiming to be infected with COVID-19 has been sentenced to six months in jail. The case is believed to be the first jail sentence in London imposed for a coronavirus-related incident involving a cop, Metropolitan Police said Wednesday.
Adam Lewis, 55, was convicted of trying to cough up phlegm and spit in the face of an officer on patrol Tuesday. A witness reported that Lewis had been trying to break into cars before a cop stopped him, Metropolitan police said.
“I am COVID [sic] and I am going to cough in your face and will get it,” Lewis told the officer, police said.
Police officials in London said they hope Lewis’ punishment deters others from committing such “horrendous” assaults on law enforcement officials.
“I hope the sentence today conveys a strong message that it will not be tolerated,” said Chief Superintendent Helen Harper of the Metropolitan Police’s Area West Command Unit.
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