PALM BAY, Fla. – A Palm Bay police officer is in quarantine after a 47-year-old woman under arrest spit in his face repeatedly and claimed she had COVID-19, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
The unidentified officer remains under a 14-day quarantine as a precaution after the encounter with the woman during a disturbance call last week, police reported.
“It’s a vile, disgusting thing to do,” said Lt. Mike Smith of the Palm Bay Police Department.
Police arrested the woman after being called to a disturbance Sunday at a home on Australian Road in the northwest section of the city. A fight broke out between two men and the woman was drawn into the ensuing struggle, police reported.
The woman – who was expected to be tested – was charged with battery on law enforcement. The woman was taken to Palm Bay Hospital for an evaluation where she spat on the officer at least three times, screaming that she had COVID-19, before coughing and laughing, police said.
Her name was not immediately available because of privacy concerns about her medical history. The woman was placed in a restraint helmet with a spit mask and then booked into the Brevard County Jail Complex. It was not immediately known if she was tested for the coronavirus.
Smith said the incident was one of several involving intimidation efforts on the part of defendants being taken into custody since the coronavirus pandemic. Similar incidents have been reported nationwide.
“We have had other instances where people have said they had COVID-19, but it doesn’t stop us from responding accordingly,” Smith said.
Smith said the situation is reminiscent of the handling of any other incident involving infectious diseases such as Hepatitis or HIV.
“We’ll move forward with our normal operations no matter if it’s COVID or not. Our officers use personal protection equipment. But now we have to decide if our officers need to wear masks all the time. We have to find that balance,” he said.