Coronavirus Assault: Ten different arrests for abuse of police, workers

Dutch police car
Stock photo of a Dutch police vehicle. April 8, 2019jomahepu@gmail.comDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in late February, police have arrested at least ten different people for threatening police, bus drivers and supermarket staff with a coronavirus infection by spitting at them or coughing on them. The incidents are causing more concern among police officers, who have already modified their approach to criminal and domestic intervention because of the ongoing health crisis.

A court in Limburg convicted a 19-year-old from Sittard on Friday for saying he had coronavirus and spitting on a bus driver. The incident happened on Tuesday around 5 p.m. at Maastricht Centraal after the bus driver confronted the teen for not having enough credit on his public transit card to cover the bus fare. "The court takes into account that we live in a bizarre and violent time where the impact of behavior is greater, than in normal circumstances," a statement from the court noted. He was convicted for making threats that when combined with any crime "endanger the general safety of people." He was given an eight-week prison sentence, and ordered to pay the victim 450 euros.

Coughing in people's faces to cut a coffeeshop line

In Den Bosch, a 28-year-old man was convicted on Wednesday for "deliberately coughing in people's faces and shouting that he has corona," the court said. "He also violently opposed his arrest and assaulted and insulted a police officer. He also threatened the agent with coronavirus infection and spat at the agent."

He was accused of cutting in line at a Den Bosch coffeeshop on March 15 moments after the Dutch government briefly ordered the cannabis operators to shut down as part of a series of early measures against the spread of the contagious virus. "Watch out! Corona, corona!" he shouted, while coughing in people's faces, the court said. A police officer responded and ordered him to leave. The man allegedly complied, but returned. When an officer tried to arrest him, the man kicked the police officer, spat on him, aggressively insulted him, and flipped him a middle finger.

The man, also from Den Bosch, was sentenced to nine weeks behind bars, of which two will be suspended if the man meets court-ordered conditions. He was given an extra week in jail for another offense, and ordered to pay the police officer 384 euros in restitution. "You simply took advantage of the situation purely for your own gain," the court said, in spite of the man's stated regret.

"You want corona? Here, come and get it!"

Police arrested a man they referred to as a "Corona Menace" at Utrecht Centraal on Monday after responding to a report that the 35-year-old was trying to steal food inside a store. He was found lying on the shop floor and was helped up by authorities, who said they wanted to address the matter with him in private. He was told to sit down for fear he would fall over from excessive drinking.

That's when the man aggressively jumped into action, police said. “You don't tell me what to do! You want corona? Here come and get it!”

He then spat five times at the police officers who barely managed to dodge the flying sputum. He will face accusations of attempted aggravated assault and making threats on April 1, police said.

Shelter worker bitten, Snot blown all over police interrogation room

A 21-year-old Leeuwarden man was placed in custody for two weeks on Tuesday while an investigation continues into accusations that he bit a nightwatchman at a homeless shelter. He allegedly threatened him with death and spat on the guard. "At the police station, the suspect blew his nose, the snot ending up on his hands and the floor of an interrogation room," the prosecutor said. He then allegedly told a police officer, "Sit in front of me with your medical masks, boy, I will give you diseases." That happened on March 20, one week after he was accused of threatening two mental healthcare workers with arson and aggravated abuse. "Personality problems" may have played a role in the incidents, the prosecutor said.

Choking one cop, spitting at another: "I will finish you!"

An Utrecht woman was convicted of choking a police officer and spitting in another's face, resulting in her entering isolation to protect others from disease. It started on March 18 when police went to her home on Ossewagendreef because the woman's roommate was locked out of the apartment and she was unresponsive. A locksmith opened the door for a well-being check, and police found the woman under the influence of alcohol, the prosecutor in the case said. When police tried to mediate a dispute between the two tenants, the 49-year-old woman shouted, "I will finish you!" and grabbed one of the officers by the throat several times, prosecutors alleged. Then, at the police station, "the woman called out that she had corona and spat at the officers," the prosecutor said. Later in a holding cell, she spat in an officer's face. "As a result, the agent is now isolated and can no longer have contact with her partner, children and parents," because they are at an increased risk of illness, the prosecutor said. She was sentenced to two weeks in prison, with two more weeks conditionally suspended. 

Some routine traffic stops are anything but routine: "Those gloves won't help you."

Also on March 20, an ordinary traffic stop was the catalyst for a similar incident. The suspect, the police said, ignored signals to stop repeatedly before eventually pulling over. The unlicensed driver emerged from his uninsured car and marched up to Henk, the 55-year-old officer involved, saying that he had just returned from a visit with his friend. Then, "he coughed in the face of a police officer and said, 'My comrade has corona,'' according to the prosecutor. Henk was nose-to-nose with the 52-year-old suspect at the time, the officer told Dagblad van het Noorden. "I was really shocked by that," Henk told the newspaper. "I have a family and parents who are already in their eighties.” He said he filed a charge against the Nieuw-Beerta man for attempted aggravated abuse.

Another man who was pulled over on March 18 for dangerous driving and possibly driving under the influence coughed in the face of the two responding police officers. "Nice guys, I have the corona virus. Now you too!" the prosecutor said the man told the police. "I've been tested for it," the 23-year-old claimed. "So those gloves won't help you." He later said he was lying at the time. The Noordwijkerhout man was sentenced two days later to a 10-week jail term, of which two weeks were conditionally suspended. He may have to pay undisclosed financial damages, the prosecutor said.

Spitting and coughing at police in Amsterdam

Two separate incidents also on Tuesday took place in Amsterdam, the first when a woman in Amsterdam-Noord allegedly coughed in the faces of two police officers. The 30-year-old woman was reportedly pulled over by police for driving too fast at about 2:30 p.m., and responded by getting out of the car and screaming, wrote the Parool. When asked for her identification, she then responded by coughing hard at the responding officers.

Hours later in Amsterdam Oost police responded to a reported disturbance at a grocery store on Celebesstraat. Officers tried to remove a 46-year-old man from the supermarket, and the man is alleged to have spat at them.

Abusing a supermarket manager at closing time

A Lelystad man was also given a 40-hour community service sentence on March 20 for spitting in a supermarket manager's face two days prior. He tried sneaking through the store's exit doors just after the store closed for the evening. He began packing his groceries as the manager told him to leave. When the manager took the 28-year-old suspect's groceries from him, the suspect allegedly spat on the manager's clothes and face. Of the victim, the prosecutor said, "He felt angry and gross and was afraid of being infected."

The judge in the case said, "Given the special situation we are in now, I find spitting very intense. In principle, a prison sentence would be appropriate and required." However the man was given a lighter sentence because he was not recently convicted of a violent crime and his profession, which was not disclosed, was on the list of vital professions needed to keep society running.