Massachusetts police are seeking the public’s help to identify a man who spat on two hikers who weren’t wearing masks and said he had COVID-19, in an incident captured on video. The Ashburnham Police Department said the incident occurred on Sunday, November 15, at the Hudson Overlook on the Midstate Trail in Ashburnham, in northern Massachusetts.
The police department shared a post on Facebook with a screengrab of the man’s face from the video. On November 24, the Ashburnham Police Department identified the man as 71-year-old Hale Powell and said he’d been arrested and will be charged with assault and battery and false threat of a biological agent, WCVB’s Sera Congi reported. According to police, Powell told officers that he does not actually have COVID-19.
At this time, the police department has not provided the identities of the women who took the video. The minute-long clip is available below via Telegram & Gazette’s YouTube channel:
The Hikers Can Be Heard Arguing About Mask-Wearing Outdoors Before the Spitting Incident
The video starts with the camera focused on the ground as the man can be heard asking the female hikers, “You’re not wearing a mask?” It is unclear what happened prior to the video being taken and how the conversation began. As the man is asking about their lack of masks, one of the women says, “I don’t care, I’m not gonna wear a mask when I’m outside.”
The man then replies, “That’s not the law, that’s not the law.” The camera then shows the man walking away from the two women as one of them says, “Good for you, you call whoever you need to call and do whatever you need to do.” The unidentified man turns around and says, “Selfish is what it is, completely irresponsible,” to which one of the women states, “OK, thank you so much for your input.”
At first, it appears as though the man will continue to walk away, but he then turns around and walks back toward the hikers, pulling his mask down. The man’s female companion can be seen unsuccessfully trying to grab his arm to stop him. As the man walks up to the hikers, he says, “OK, I have COVID” and spits twice at the women, who are very close to him at this point based on the video clip. He states again, “I have Covid, I’ve been tested positive,” as he spits at them once more.
One of the female hikers asks him, “Are you okay?” He replies, “No, and you won’t be soon,” spitting at them once more before turning away. He then begins hiking away with his companion and can be heard laughing and saying, “That’s arrogant, completely arrogant.”
An Ashburnham Police Department Spokesperson Said He Could Face a Misdemeanor or Felony Charge Based on Their Investigation
— Mass. Public Health (@MassDPH) November 21, 2020
Ashburnham Lt. Chris Conrad told CNN that the man in the clip could face a misdemeanor charge of assault and a charge of making a false threat of a biological agent, a felony, based on what they find out during the course of their investigation. According to WHDH, police have described the suspect as a man in his late 60s or early 70s, who is roughly 5’11” and with gray facial hair and blue glasses.
A new order from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker effective November 6 states that people are required to wear face masks in public locations, both indoor and outdoor, regardless of whether they are able to physically distance themselves from others. On Saturday, Massachusetts reported 2,991 new COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths for a total of 197,329 confirmed cases and 10,257 deaths, with another 231 “probably linked” to COVID-19, according to the state government’s website.