A man in Florida who spat and coughed on police personnel while claiming he has the coronavirus was charged with perpetrating a biological weapon hoax. He is likely to face up to five years in federal prison if convicted.

Officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department on March 27 responded to a domestic violence call involving James Jamal Curry, 31, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.  

“During Curry’s arrest, he turned to an officer, declared that he was infected with the Coronavirus, and coughed on the officer’s arm,” the statement read. He was booked at the Pinellas County jail, wherefrom he was released the following day only to be rearrested the same evening based on another tip-off.

Curry was said to have spat on an arresting officer “multiple times—hitting the officer’s face, nose, and inside her mouth with blood-filled saliva,” claiming that he had the coronavirus and that he was “spreading the virus around.”

Law enforcement officers subsequently obtained and executed a search warrant with regard to testing him for the pathogen and the report came back negative. “Individuals close to Curry and jail personnel reported that Curry had not shown any symptoms of COVID-19,” according to the statement.

The case was being investigated by several departments.

Florida has reported a total of 15,234 positive cases as of Wednesday, with 323 deaths, according to the state health department.

In a similar incident, a Houston teen last month was arrested for making light of the coronavirus anxieties as he coughed purposely on some items in a grocery store. He was charged with tampering with consumer products by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “It appears a 14-year-old teen male intentionally coughed on produce… Apparently it was a prank. Not a very funny one. The teen was charged with Tampering with Consumer Products,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

Police man a traffic stop on the route to the Florida Keys, which have been temporarily closed to visitors since March 22 because of the coronavirus crisis Police man a traffic stop on the route to the Florida Keys, which have been temporarily closed to visitors since March 22 because of the coronavirus crisis Photo: Florida Keys News Bureau / Andy Newman