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Cleveland man charged with falsely claiming he had COVID-19, coughing in first responders' faces

He allegedly made the claim while being arrested for public intoxication.
Credit: Getty Images

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland man has been indicted for falsely claiming he has COVID-19, among other charges.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced Wednesday that a federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment charging Walter Ray Poindexter, 32, with false information and hoaxes.

The charges stem from a March 14 incident when Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police officers responded to calls of an intoxicated individual on downtown trolley, later identified as Poindexter. He was arrested and transported to the Cuyahoga County Jail due to an outstanding Franklin County warrant.

When he arrived there, Poindexter allegedly claimed he had the coronavirus, and "forcefully" coughed in officers' faces according to a release from U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. The defendant is also accused of intentionally coughing in the direction of a Cuyahoga County Jail nurse after again claiming he had the disease.

Poindexter was sent MetroHealth Medical Center for evaluation. In the emergency room, he apparently again claimed to have the virus and intentionally coughed on hospital staff. Poindexter also allegedly spat in the face of a paramedic.

Both the defendant and paramedic were later given COVID-19 tests that came back negative. This case is now being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Om Kakani and Jerome J. Teresinski.