Flagstaff Police Department upping fines, sentences for COVID-19 threats to first responders

Folks up in Flagstaff won’t be able to cut any corners when it comes to using COVID-19 against the authorities.

“We just want to make sure that people understand that it’s not OK to intentionally cough or threaten law enforcement and first responders with exposure to the virus,” says Sgt. Charles Hernandez with the Flagstaff Police Department.

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Flagstaff police say they’ve had a couple instances in which people are using the coronavirus to get out of being taken to jail. That includes one particular man who officers were trying to take into custody.

“The individual intentionally pointed his face at the officers and coughed in their face exposing them to the virus,” Hernandez  said.

Cococino County prosecutors announced they’re looking to jack up fines and jail sentences in cases for those threatening to intentionally expose first responders to COVID-19 .

“The individual did test positive for the coronavirus, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that's why the charges were put on the individual," Hernandez explained.

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He says it’s the elevated threat that matters most, but it’s different from walking into a movie theater and yelling ‘fire.'"

"If you’re in a movie theater and you’re present during someone yelling that, yeah you would be concerned, but you would be able to quickly determine whether there is a fire or not because you can see flames or smoke which result from the fire. But I think with this instance, there’s no way to easily confirm whether the person is or not infected with the virus. So I think it’s a little bit more severe and I think the courts recognize that," Hernandez explained.

It's unknown how long the elevated fines and/or jail sentences will last.

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