KEY POINTS

  • A Missouri man shared a video of him licking toiletries at a Walmart
  • He asked 'who's afraid of coronavirus?' before licking the products 
  • Cody Pfister has now been arrested and charged with terrorist threat in the second degree

Earlier this month, a video of a man licking a row of toiletries at a Walmart in Warrenton, Missouri, surfaced and immediately went viral. The man is now in custody and has been charged with making a terrorist threat.

In the video, the man asks "who’s afraid of coronavirus?" before going on to lick a row of deodorants for sale. The man’s identity was initially unknown but, some users on social media suggested that the man was from Missouri.

Many criticized the video and the Warrenton Police Department received multiple reports about the incident from both the locals as well as people from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands, where interest in the incident rose after British television personality Piers Morgan shared the video.

On Monday (March 23), local authorities took 26-year-old Cody Pfister into custody and he has been charged by the Warren County Prosecuting Attorney's Office with a terrorist threat in the second degree. In the state of Missouri, the charge is a Class E felony, which means that Pfister could face up to four years in prison and have to pay a fine of $5,000.

Court documents state that Pfister demonstrated "reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion" of the store in which he allegedly did the act on March 11.

In Pfister's defense, his attorney, Patrick Coyne, said in a statement that the video was actually taken on March 10, not March 11, which means that he did the act a day before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

"Public conduct that was immature on March 10 looks completely differently through the lens of today," Coyne said. "Everything has changed at warp speed, but that should not work retroactively and convert a tasteless and impulsive act into a criminal terrorist threat."

Despite the immaturity defense and amid the ongoing "coronavirus challenge" trend in which people lick toilet seats, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen this week suggested that anyone who is found to be intentionally spreading COVID-19 could face charges under federal terrorism laws. 

Missouri has reported 356 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8 deaths as of 2:30 p.m. CT on March 25.