'We got that on camera, a--hole': A video appears to show a Richmond police officer spitting 3 times on a detained protester

Screenshot/TwitterA video on Twitter appears to capture a Richmond, Virginia, police officer spitting on a protester multiple times.
  • The Richmond Police Department is investigating a video in which an officer appears to be spitting on a detained protester three times.
  • Shared widely on social media, the video has been watched by almost 20,000 people.
  • It’s unknown whether the officer had the novel coronavirus – which spreads via droplets from an infected person’s coughs, speech, or sneezes – or was otherwise trying to threaten the demonstrator’s health.
  • The Department of Justice has categorised the coronavirus as a “biological agent,” so “threats targeting specific individuals” can be prosecuted as acts of terrorism.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The police in Richmond, Virginia, have launched an investigation into a video that appears to show an officer spitting on a protester.

The footage surfaced on Twitter on Tuesday and has since racked up nearly 20,000 views. In it, a protester is detained on the ground. About 10 police officers are standing at his back, and another law-enforcement officer fully outfitted in riot gear is stationed nearby.

One police officer appears to lean over and spit on the man.

“Yup, got that,” a woman shouts.

“We got that on camera, a–hole!” another yells.

Seemingly unperturbed, the officer repeats the action.

“Hey, we see you,” a woman says loudly.

The officer does it a third time.

“Yup, still doing it,” she says.

Asked about the footage and the officer involved, the Richmond Police Department told Insider in an email, “We are aware of the video and are investigating.”

The scene earned swift backlash online.

Though life is gradually returning to normal across all 50 states – with stay-at-home orders being relaxed and certain businesses being allowed to reopen – the highly contagious novel coronavirus remains a threat.

As of Tuesday, more than 1.82 million Americans have been infected and at least 105,644 have died, based on data from Johns Hopkins University. Virginia has reported 46,239 cases and 1,407 deaths.

The illness typically spreads via droplets from a patient’s coughs, speech, or sneezes. It’s also possible for a person to never fall sick and yet transmit the disease to others they come in contact with.

A fair number of protesters reacting to George Floyd’s death have worn masks – face coverings can reduce the virus’ spread – but the lack of social distancing has prompted worries of an uptick in COVID-19 cases. A study found that talking was a “likely mode” of coronavirus transmission – particularly for those speaking loudly, which makes the yelling and chanting at tightly packed demonstrations another cause for concern.

Blm protests mask coronavirusAP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezA protester on Sunday in Santa Monica, California, during unrest and protests over the death of George Floyd.

It’s unknown whether the Richmond police officer had the coronavirus or was trying to threaten the demonstrator’s health. But the Department of Justice has issued a memorandum about enforcement actions related to the coronavirus.

“We have seen an unfortunate array of criminal activity related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the document. “Capitalising on this crisis to reap illicit profits or otherwise preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated.”

The document says the coronavirus “appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent,'” so “threats targeting specific individuals or the general public” and “the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19” would be considered acts of terrorism.

“Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated,” the document adds.

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