16 Year Old Trenton Resident, Coughed On Shopper, Charged COVID-19 Harassment & Obstruction of Justice Incident at Wegmans

Released, April 3, 2020

WEST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–

INCIDENT:  2020-8704 Harassment and Obstruction of Justice
 
DATE & TIME OCCURRED:  3/31/2020 at 1223 Hours
 
LOCATION OCCURRED:  Wegmans Food Market, 240 Nassau Park Blvd.
 
VICTIM:  52 year old W/F
               Resident of Monmouth Jct., NJ 08852
 
ACTOR:  16 year old B/F  **IDENTITY NOT TO BE RELEASED
                  Resident of Trenton, NJ 08618
 
OTHER INVOLVED:  36 year old B/F (Mother of Actor)–Present at
                                                                                          the Scene
                                    Resident of Trenton, NJ 08618

DETAILS:  On Tuesday 3/31/2020 at 1223 Hours, Ptl. Abade was working a security detail outside of the Wegmans Food Market when he was approached by an employee in regards to an altercation between (2) customers.  Ptl. Abade entered the store and met with the victim who related the following; she had been waiting in line to checkout with her groceries.  A young female, was standing in front of the cart behind the victim.  The victim asked the young female is she would mind moving back.  The female did not comply and responded with an attitude.  The young female removed the mask (covering her face) and coughed at the victim.

Ptl. Abade met with the female and her mother.  The mother indicated that they were working for Instacart.  While waiting in line, the mother switched places with her daughter so they would not block the aisle behind them.  The victim began swinging her arm in their direction and advising her daughter that she was too close to the victim.  The mother & daughter claimed they had been behind their designated lines during the verbal altercation and not near the victim.  The mother continued the verbal exchange with the victim because she didn’t want the victim speaking to her daughter in the manner she was. 

Ptl. Abade met with an unaffiliated employee in the incident who indicated that the victim had asked the daughter to step back because she felt young girl was too close.  The young girl was standing in front of her cart and NOT an appropriate distance from the victim.  All (3) persons, victim, mother & daughter were engaged in a verbal argument when the daughter pulled her facial mask down, walked closer to the victim, and coughed towards the victim while claiming that she had the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  The employee subsequently notified Ptl. Abade of the incident as it was still unfolding.      

Det. Sgt. Lai picked up the investigation from there.  The juvenile was determined to be uncooperative at the scene.  After thoroughly & painstakingly gathering the facts in the incident Det. Sgt. Lai determined that the juvenile had harassed the victim by pulling down her facial mask, walking closer toward the victim, and cough towards the victim while claiming to have the deadly & highly contagious Coronavirus (COVID-19).  In addition, the juvenile had been uncooperative with the investigation.  Det. Sgt. Lai signed Juvenile Petitions against the 16 year old for Harassment and Obstruction of Justice pending a future Mercer County Family Court Appearance.         

            
 **NOTE**:  Chief Garofalo wanted to let our community know that we fully support New Jersey AG Grewal and Mercer County Prosecutor Onofri in having zero tolerance for acts such as this.  Chief Garofalo wanted to assure everyone that the WWPD will continue to bring those to justice who choose to victimize others.  Supermarkets such as Wegmans have been deemed essential by the State of New Jersey and the WWPD will use its full resources to protect their staff and the general public during this time of need.