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Man who attempted ‘coughing prank’ at Aldi could face charges

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(PEORIA) WEEK - Not everyone is taking Governor JB Pritzker's social distancing guidelines to heart during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some are going so far as to turn coughing on others into a joke; completely ignoring the statewide and nationwide mandate that urges everyone to stay at least six feet from others if they must be out in public.

Wednesday Peoria Police arrested 26-year-old Kenneth L. Stone, releasing him shortly afterward with a disorderly conduct citation.

A report came in that a man was coughing on food and other people at the Aldi grocery store in Peoria, while recording himself doing it.

When officers got to the scene and found Stone, they asked him if he was in fact purposely coughing and recording inside the store.

Stone denied it, but when asked a second time if he was doing it as a joke, he explained it was for a Youtube video. Police also say when they asked him directly whether or not he was positive for COVID-19, he said "No."

The police report goes on to detail that as Stone was cuffed and put into the back of a PPD squad car, a shopper ran up to officers yelling "That's him. He coughed on me."

The woman continued to explain that while shopping at Aldi, Stone "approached her and began to cough on her while recording her with his cell phone."

She added she was alarmed and disturbed because she's considered to be at a higher risk to contract the virus and was already wearing a face mask as extra precaution.

Surveillance video ultimately showed Stone never did cough on the food, but Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion III said jokes like that won't be tolerated.

"That is taken very seriously. I personally contacted the State's Attorney for a review of charges as well." Marion explained during the daily Peoria City/County health department briefing.

Meanwhile shoppers didn't take the joke lightly either.

"It's scary how careless people are being and it makes you worry that people aren't taking it as serious." said Kelsey Fiddes, an Aldi shopper.

Fiddes was relieved to hear the prank wasn't executed, and said she's even more grateful grocery stores are adding precautions like shields between cashiers and shoppers.

Others couldn't even fathom the idea that a person could think risking someone's life is funny.

"That's uncalled for. It really is. That's a sick individual. Maybe they have a mental problem. I don't know...that is Satan!" one shopper told 25 News.

Police believe it's likely Stone's charges will be increased by the State's Attorney's office because of the severity of his actions.

This story will be updated.

Lauren Melendez

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