Massachusetts police have arrested a man who, while hiking, spat numerous times upon two fellow hikers for not wearing masks and told them he was infected with COVID-19.
According to local news, Hale Powell, 71, approached two women on Saturday, November 21, who were paused at a scenic overlook on the hiking trail, and confronted them because they were not wearing protective face masks.
One of the women shot video of the confrontation, which showed the man telling them that they were being irresponsible and selfish.
The women in question seemed incredulous that he would be so stringent when they were out in the open air. "Why would I wear a mask when I'm outside?" one woman asked, according to the video.
"That's not the law. That's not the law," Powell chided.
"Good for you. You call whoever you need to call and do whatever you need to do," retorted the woman.
The man then walked toward them, said, “I have COVID, I tested positive” and spat at them several times. A female companion with Powell tried to dissuade him from the aggressive maneuver, yelling his name frantically several times and saying "Stop it!" but to no avail.
"Are you OK?" asked the incredulous victim after he'd backed off.
"No, and you won't be soon," replied Powell, before walking off muttering, "Arrogant! Completely arrogant!"
Police apparently received dozens of tips regarding the incident.
It isn't clear whether Powell is actually infected with the coronavirus or if he was just calling the ladies' bluff, but police didn't find anything amusing about his vigilante actions. “It was hostile, it was inappropriate, it was threatening, it could even be assaultive,” Lt. Chris Conrad of Ashburnham police told local news outlets.
In the meantime, Powell was arraigned on November 24, pleading not guilty to charges of assault and battery and issuing a false threat of a biological agent, according to the Telegram & Gazette.
He was ordered by a judge to be tested for COVID-19 and to remain quarantined for two weeks or until he can produce a negative test. He was also told to stay away from the alleged victims in the case. Powell is due back in court in January.