QUEENSBURY — A manager at the Dollar General on Main Street has to undergo a series of medical tests because a shoplifter spat in her face Tuesday morning.
Jenni Lee said she confronted a customer shortly after witnessing him smuggle a pair of swim goggles into his backpack at around 10 a.m.
That’s when the man, Chad Alden of Glens Falls, pulled down his face mask and spat in her eye before running out of the store.
“I said, ‘Give me back the goggles or I’m calling the police,’ and he ripped his mask off and spit in my face,” Lee said Wednesday.
Employees at the store called police, and officers caught Alden, 35, on foot just down the street a few minutes later.
He was issued an appearance ticket and is due back in Queensbury Town Court on Aug. 17. He was charged with harassment, a violation, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor.
But Lee, who has worked at the store for six months, said she feels the harassment charge doesn’t go far enough, particularly in this time of COVID-19, the deadly virus that can easily be transmitted via saliva.
“Why wouldn’t it be assault? It’s bodily fluids,” she said.
She contacted her district manager after the incident and was given the rest of the day off but was told she needed to undergo a series of tests, including ones for HIV, hepatitis B and C and COVID.
“I have to give it a couple of days to see if anything transferred because it went in my eye,” said Lee, who has worked for Dollar General for nine years.
Warren County Undersheriff Terry Comeau, however, said Alden’s actions weren’t enough to charge him with assault under state law because Lee didn’t sustain any physical injuries.
“It wouldn’t fit under assault,” he said.
Under state law, anyone who “strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects such other person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same” faces charges of harassment in the second degree, which is what Alden was charged with.
“It just doesn’t fit under the assault section,” Comeau said.
But Lee said she feels the intent behind the action should be enough to bump up the charges. She’s worried Alden has COVID-19 and that is why he spit in her face.
“I really think it has a lot to do with COVID, which is the worst thing you could do to somebody right now,” she said. “It’s like coughing in your face, but it’s spitting fluid in my eyes.”
Lee said she has since processed what happened and is doing OK.
She has returned to work, where she wears a mask and stands behind a plexiglass shield, but is monitoring her symptoms.
“I’ll take precautions if I show any symptoms whatsoever,” she said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.
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