2 Sought After Coronavirus Incident in Illinois Walmart

February 6, 2020 Updated: February 6, 2020
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Two persons of interest are being sought by police in Illinois after one of them had a handmade sign that claimed he had the Wuhan coronavirus before he sprayed Lysol on thousands of dollars worth of produce inside a Walmart in Joliet.

“Officers were informed that two suspects entered Walmart and one of the suspects put on a yellow medical mask. The masked suspect then began to spray a substance (later determined to be Lysol) on produce, clothing, and items of health and beauty,” according to the Joliet Police Department in a social media statement on Feb. 4.

The masked suspect also made a sign on his back, reading, “Caution I have the Coronavirus,” referring to the virus that has ravaged parts of China and triggered worldwide travel bans.

Police said the suspects were spotted leaving in a 2003 GMC Yukon with an Oswego, Illinois, registration. The suspects are also white males possibly in their 20s, added police.

According to their post, Walmart confirmed to the department that it lost about $7,300 of produce following the incident. It cost another $2,400 to clean up the area that was sprayed with Lysol.

No one was believed to have been exposed to the virus, which has infected at least 12 people in the United States as of this week. In China, the mysterious new contagion has prompted quarantines and lockdowns across a number of Chinese cities.

Police didn’t state what charges the two suspects would face. The department asked that anyone who has information should contact them at (815) 724-3020.

This week, an airline passenger traveling from Canada to Jamaica caused a WestJet plane to turn around and head back home after a suspect stood up and told other passengers and flight crew that he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

The Peel Regional Police said James Potok, 28, was charged with criminal mischief after “he stood up and announced that he had been to China and has the coronavirus,” which was shared with the pilots and flight crew. A decision was then made to return the flight to Pearson Airport.

“We were just over Florida and all of a sudden we felt the plane do a pretty dramatic turn,” passenger Julie-Anne Broderick told CBC News. “We were flying in the opposite direction all of a sudden and it said our final destination was back in Toronto. So we were very confused and worried.”

“The flight attendants came, gave him a mask and gloves, and just told him that he had to move to the back of the plane,” she said, adding that pilots told the passengers that they believed it to be a hoax.