Huntsville police say COVID-19 pranks could result in criminal charges

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — While the amount of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, some people are looking to take advantage of the fear surrounding the virus to make a joke.

You may have seen something like this on social media: somebody videos themselves in a public place such as a park or a grocery store and pretends to cough, sneeze, or touch somebody else to spread COVID-19, just to get their reaction.

While some people might find this funny, the Huntsville Police Department does not.

“We understand there’s a lot of jokesters and pranksters out there that take advantage of this situation to have some videos try and go viral, but they need to understand that they could be apt to criminal charges,” said Lt. Michael Johnson with HPD.

Lt. Johnson says the police department has received a few calls of unusual situations where people thought someone was doing something intentional, but it turns out they were not.

But, if someone were to be caught pretending to infect someone with the disease, Lt. Johnson said they could be criminally charged with something as minimum as harassment, up to terroristic threats.

Police are not the only ones who find behaviors like this disruptive to the community.

Several Huntsville residents gave their opinion on the prank videos. From “basic ignorance” to “one of the most inconsiderate, selfish things you could possibly do right now” are a few of the comments made.

LaShaunda Hampton asked: “I mean, how nasty and disgusting could you possibly be, to try to prove a point?”

MariBeth Morgan says this is a type of humor that shouldn’t be encouraged. “While I love humor, not in a situation in those cases of where they’re making people fearful.”

“The fact that there are people that are intentionally trying to invoke fear in others… is just deplorable,” said Julia Cherry.

Joshua Gill says those making the videos are trying to get likes and attention on social media. “They’re trying to be famous, messing around, kidding. They’re taking it as a joke. It`s very serious because a lot of people are dying from it.”

“If you need things to do, I`m a volunteer at Manna House,” said Morgan. “We need people. Go grocery shopping, buy some extra groceries for somebody in need. There are tons of things that you can do that are productive.”

Lt. Johnson said the community is already in a situation that has a lot of uncertainty. “Doing something like this to get a rise out of somebody or to make some joke, this isn’t the proper way to do it.”

So before you or somebody you know decides to go out and play a prank or a joke on innocent bystanders, you may want to think again.

The Huntsville Police Department says if you know of a situation or have experienced one where someone intentionally looking to spread COVID-19, or even pretend to, make sure to contact your local authorities.

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