Cleveland man claiming to have COVID-19 arrested after allegedly spitting on paramedic

The man, who later tested negative for COVID-19, faces three counts of fourth-degree felony assault

Adam Ferrise
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

CLEVELAND — A 31-year-old man faces criminal charges after he claimed he had coronavirus while spitting on a paramedic and trying to spit on officers and other hospital personnel at MetroHealth, police and court records say.

Walter Poindexter of Cleveland faces three counts of fourth-degree felony assault on emergency medical personnel, and one count each of obstructing justice and harassment by an inmate. A grand jury handed up the indictment on Wednesday.

Officials with MetroHealth and the county jail said Poindexter did not have coronavirus. Poindexter is now in the Cuyahoga County Jail on $5,000 bond.

RTA police reports say the paramedic worked for Cleveland EMS, but EMS commander Chris Chapin said the paramedic is not a city employee.

The incident happened about 12:30 p.m. March 14. Poindexter was drinking alcohol on an RTA trolley. RTA police spotted him as he got off the trolley in Public Square. Poindexter ran and the officers chased after him.

The officers tackled Poindexter and arrested him, according to police reports. Poindexter admitted to drinking on the trolley and had a warrant out for his arrest in Franklin County, police reports say.

The officers took him to the Cuyahoga County Jail, where he claimed to have coronavirus, that he couldn’t breathe and coughed in a police officer’s face, police reports say.

The jail’s protocol dictates that all officers, in that case, must take the arrestee to MetroHealth for an evaluation.

Poindexter threw himself to the ground as the officers escorted him into the hospital. Two nearby medics saw the officers struggling with Poindexter and offered to help.

He spat at the two medics, the officers and MetroHealth employees, while yelling that he had coronavirus, according to police reports. The group tried to put multiple masks on Poindexter, but he also spat in one of the paramedic’s eyes, according to police and court records.

The paramedic wrote in her statement that she wanted to press charges.

“All I was trying to do was help,” her statement says.

Doctors cleared Poindexter of any medical ailment, including coronavirus, and corrections officers took him back to the county jail.


©2020 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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