A habitual offender coughed on Belleville police and told them she had the coronavirus after they chased her down for shoplifting, authorities said.Vanessa Shaaraway, 35, was charged with making terroristic threats during a state of emergency, aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest, among other counts.
Shaaraway -- whose most recent addresses have been in Kearny and neighboring Belleville -- bolted and refused commands to stop, forcing police to chase her down, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
"When she was caught by two officers, she purposefully coughed on them and claimed that she was infected with COVID-19," he said.
"We take all assaults on police officers seriously," Grewal emphasized, "but it is especially heinous for someone to spit or cough at an officer in an attempt to infect or threaten to infect them with COVID-19.
"Hundreds of officers across New Jersey are already infected with the virus, which, in many cases, they likely contracted by protecting and serving the public while on the front lines of the battle," the attorney general said. "We have zero tolerance for anyone who uses the coronavirus as a weapon or instrument of terror against officers bravely performing their duties during this health crisis."
Shaaraway has a lengthy criminal history stretching back 10 or so years, including arrests for robbery and drugs, along with several violations for not showing up for court, records show.
Last November, Lyndhurst police arrested her and a parolee who barricaded himself in a local motel following a chase.
Authorities throughout New Jersey have charged several other people the past two weeks with crimes directly tied to the current pandemic.
No fewer than five of them either spit or coughed on police officers and claimed they’d tested positive for COVID-19, authorities said. Others held weddings or other gatherings in violation of state emergency orders.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.