MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson says he’ll be investigating incidents of spitting and coughing on a member of law enforcement during the COVID-19 crisis.
Swanson says police agencies throughout Chautauqua County have reported such incidents during the crisis. He says those actions are putting the lives of law enforcement and their families in danger.
The prosecutor told WNYNewsNow Tuesday morning that his office has looked at a situation that arose in Dunkirk last week.
“To me, it just boggles the mind that someone would do something like that,” Swanson said. “You have these police officers who, in their day-to-day lives, when things are normal, are putting themselves in harms way, protecting our communities. But with the current circumstances, not only are they putting themselves in harms way and their health in harms way, they’re potentially exposing people that are close to them, their family members and other people that they interact with on a regular basis.”
“There’s a real concern if someone decides to do this to a police officer, and we want to make sure that we are doing what we can.”
Swanson also released the following in a press release Tuesday:
“We find ourselves in unprecedented times. Our Police Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies and State Troopers are putting their lives, and potentially the lives of those close to them, at-risk to protect our communities every single day. These officers risk exposure to this virus simply by going to work. It angers me that anyone would spit or cough at an officer – especially during this health crisis – in an effort to intimidate or threaten them when they are performing their job related responsibilities. The people of Chautauqua County should know that this behavior will not be tolerated, and my office will pursue the highest possible charge against any individual who threatens the health and livelihood of our law enforcement officers,” said Swanson.
The range of potential charges may include Attempted Assault in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony, Menacing in the Third Degree, a Class “B” misdemeanor, and the violation of Harassment in the Second Degree. The Chautauqua County DA’s Office says they will also consider bringing a motion to the court to compel a defendant to be tested for COVID-19. If the alleged incident occurs within a correctional facility, an individual could be charged with Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a Class “E” felony. If convicted on the felony charge, a person could face a maximum of four years in prison.
“This is a time for coming together as a whole community to get through an unthinkable crisis,” Swanson said. “My hope is that we do not have any more of these types of incidents.”