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April 07, 2020

Gov. Murphy blasts ‘jackasses’, ‘knuckleheads’ who continue to violate state’s social distancing guidelines

New Jersey is continuing to crackdown on violators of the state's stay-at-home order

Law Enforcement Coronavirus
New Jersey Phil Murphy violators stay at home order coronavirus Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Police officers have had to break up numerous gatherings across the state as residents continue to violate the state's stay-at-home order.

As some residents across New Jersey continue to violate the state’s social distancing guidelines to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy has been getting more blunt with his feelings over those who have chosen not to abide by his executive order to stay at home.

Following remarks on Monday by Colonel Pat Callahan, who serves as Superintendent of the State Police, Murphy shared a photo during his daily briefing of a soldier carrying a donkey across a field. He explained that the soldier was carrying the donkey because the field was covered in landmines, and if a donkey were to wander off on their own, they were likely to set a landmine off.

Murphy used the anecdote to illustrate how violators of the state’s ban on all private and public gatherings are endangering the public health and safety of the state. Like the soldiers, Murphy said that New Jersey is “at war” and cannot avoid any missteps.

“To all the jackasses out there, who we now have to carry to make sure they don’t make life worse for the rest of us, we know who you are and we will not relent,” Murphy said on Monday. “There’s a vast minority who are ruining it for the rest of us. So to all the jackasses and to all the knuckleheads out there, get with the program. We will not relent until we have 100% compliance.”

Murphy’s latest rebuke of violators of the state’s social distancing guidelines comes after law enforcement officials reported a number of incidents across the state over the weekend. While the majority of violations took place in North and Central Jersey, law enforcement officials said that one of the incidents occurred in the town of Woolwich in Gloucester County.

A 32-year-old man named Derrick E. Hughes II was arrested by Woolwich police for violating a temporary restraining order and allegedly spat at police officers while he was being fingerprinted, law enforcement officials said. Then, while being handcuffed, Hughes breathed heavily on the officers, claimed that he had coronavirus, and hoped that the officers would catch the virus too. 

Hughes was then charged on Sunday with making terroristic threats during an emergency, endangering a police officer, throwing bodily fluid at an officer, violation of a temporary restraining order, and violating the state’s emergency orders.

"Our police officers are working bravely and tirelessly every day to protect us during this health crisis,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Regrettably, they are being called upon far too often to deal with people violating the emergency orders— or what is more egregious, people using the virus to spread fear or impede officers in their vital work. Staying home and maintaining social distance isn’t just the best advice to stay healthy, it’s the law. Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to keep our residents and officers safe, and that means we won’t hesitate to file charges against violators.”

This past Thursday, the state unveiled increased penalties for violators of the stay-at-home order who assault police officers. Anyone who assaults a police officer during the state-of-emergency will face a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison. Those who make terroristic threats toward an officer will face even harsher penalties.

"Law enforcement and medical professionals are on the frontlines of this battle to protect the citizens of New Jersey from the COVID-19 virus, and we cannot stress enough how important it is that each person follow the guidelines set forth in the Executive Order,” Callahan said. “Because lives are at stake, enforcement action will be taken without hesitation against those who are blatantly placing the lives of others at risk.”

Earlier last week, Murphy indicated harsher penalties could be coming for people who ignore the state's social distancing restrictions. Grewal had already threatened legal consequences for violators, saying they possibly could be indicted.

New Jersey has 41,090 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second-most of any state across the country, and 1,003 deaths due to COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon. While the vast majority of positive cases and deaths have appeared in North Jersey, there have been 1,880 cases and 30 deaths in South Jersey.

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