A man who allegedly coughed and spit at a Stop & Shop in Kingston, Massachusetts, before getting into a fight there Saturday afternoon has been taken to a hospital for evaluation and may face charges, police said.
A witness to the incident said the man was coughing and spitting on food at the supermarket. He shared video to Facebook showing two men holding another one down, with one of Stop & Shop's hazard-spotting robots hovering nearby.
"Some guy at Stop and Shop in Kingston was coughing and spitting on the produce, he didn’t last long. He fought an employee and good customers took him down until the cops arrived," the witness, Kyle Mann, wrote in the post.
The grocery chain, which recently donated $1 million to food banks in the area it covers to help amid the coronavirus crisis, told NBC10 Boston in a statement that they are aware of the "unfortunate incident" that occurred Saturday involving a customer at their Kingston store, located at 160 Summer Street.
"The well-being of our shoppers and associates is a top priority at Stop & Shop," the statement read. "The customer’s actions were not in accordance with CDC guidelines, which we have been consistently encouraging all shoppers and associates to follow to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus."
Store officials have discarded potentially affected product and conducted a deep cleaning and sanitizing of all impacted areas, according to the statement. Additionally, the Board of Health has inspected the store and affirmed it is safe for shoppers.
Stop & Shop said they are working in cooperation with local law enforcement.
The Kingston Police Department confirmed that officers were called to a Stop & Shop on Summer Street for a disturbance just before noon Saturday, and that a 65-year-old man from Duxbury was accused of "coughing and spitting and became confrontational with staff and witnesses."
The department's news release didn't say what the man, who wasn't identified, allegedly coughed and spat on. But the incident did result in a physical confrontation.
While police have no information indicating the man has the coronavirus, which as of Saturday has killed 216 people in Massachusetts, they said he was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Plymouth for evaluation.
The Kingston Board of Health was called to the store to evaluate whether there has been any impact on public safety, according to police. Stop & Shop has banned the man from its stores for trespassing.
The accused spitter has been told that police are moving to accuse him of crimes that may involve assault and battery and destroying property.
Police ask anyone with information about the incident to contact the Kingston Board of Health or the department at 781-585-0523 ext. 6662.
It's not the first instance of grocery store coughing-related crime during the coronavirus outbreak.
A Pennsylvania grocery store had to throw out tens of thousands of dollars worth of food late last month after a woman walked inside and "proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery."