A Mercer County teen allegedly coughed on a fellow shopper and told her she had the coronavirus after the two got into an argument about social distancing on March 31 at the Wegmans in West Windsor.
According to police, a 52-year-old Monmouth Junction woman was waiting in the checkout line with her groceries and asked the teen in line behind her to move back in order to practice proper social distancing. The 16-year-old teen allegedly refused to move and argued with the woman. She then allegedly removed the mask that was covering her face and coughed on the woman.
A police officer who was working the security detail outside of Wegman’s was called into the store by an employee. The mother of the teen told the officer she and her daughter were working for Instacart. According to the mother, she switched places with her daughter so they would not block the aisle behind them. The other shopper then allegedly began swinging her arm in their direction and told the teen that she was too close. The mother and daughter claimed they had been behind their designated lines during the argument, and not near the victim. The mother said she continued to argue with the woman because she didn’t want her speaking to her daugher the way she was.
Police interviewed a store employee who said the woman had asked the teen to step back because she felt she was too close. The employee said the teen was standing in front of a cart and was not far enough away from the woman. According to the employee, all three were in an argument when the daughter pulled her facial mask down, walked closer to the shopper, and coughed in her direction while claiming she had the coronavirus. The employee who witnessed the altercation then went to look for the police officer who was on security detail.
Police said the teen was uncooperative at the grocery store and later during the investigation. Police signed a petition against the teen for harassment and obstruction of justice pending a future Mercer County Family Court Appearance.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said earlier this week that the police were cracking down on people violating the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders and that offenders could face strong law enforcement action. Several people have threatened police officers over the past week by coughing on them and claiming they had the coronavirus.
“This crackdown will continue until everyone gets the message that they need to stop these violations, which are putting lives at risk, including the lives of the law enforcement officers who are striving courageously each day to protect us during this emergency,” Grewal said.