Massachusetts police are on the lookout for a man who "terrorized" shoppers at a Walmart store by giving them what he called a "COVID hug."

The unidentified suspect approached a customer and took something out of his hand before giving him a hug. The suspect then told the man, "Just giving you a COVID hug. You now have COVID" before laughing and walking away, the Springfield Police Department said in a Facebook post Friday.

The customer, whose identity was not revealed, said he had never seen the man before. The incident happened at a Walmart store on Boston Road in Springfield on Aug. 15.

Police said the suspect did the same to several other customers, including a cancer survivor. They released a surveillance image showing the suspect dressed in a black shirt and grey camouflage shorts with black sneakers. The shirt had the word "Aero" printed on the front. He was also wearing a mask.

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Speaking to local media outlet Masslive, Springfield Police Department Spokesman Ryan Walsh said they were taking the incident seriously and not considering it a "laughing matter."

The suspect was being sought for charges of assault, battery and making terroristic threats.

According to state law, anyone who communicates a threat either directly or indirectly, orally, in writing “or by other means” can be charged with making terroristic threats.

It is unclear if the suspect had coronavirus. Even if the man has not tested positive for COVID-19, saying that he does and approaching people in a threatening way could constitute a threat under Massachusetts state law. It would be similar to making a false bomb threat, Walsh told the outlet.

In a similar incident in April, a Kansas couple was caught on video coughing on other shoppers while walking inside a Walmart store shouting that they had coronavirus. The couple was arrested for a felony charge of criminal threat and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

Walmart reported increased first-quarter profits following a surge in e-commerce sales for groceries and essential items from consumers stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic
Representational image. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AL BELLO
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