"He was telling everyone the same thing, that he was protecting them from the virus," said Tony Prokes, customer.
Illinois police said two men in their 20s walked into the store in the 1400-block of Route 59 and one of them put on a yellow surgical mask.
That man was also wearing a handmade sign on his back that read "Caution I have the Coronavirus." Police said he then began spraying a substance later determined to be Lysol on produce, clothing and health and beauty items.
The prank was meant to scare people about the novel coronavirus that has killed hundreds in China and infected thousands before spreading to other countries, including the U.S.
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Prokes was shopping at the Walmart Sunday when he saw the suspect walking around the store spraying Lysol. He kept telling people he was trying to disinfect the area.
"He was spraying all the produce with Lysol," Prokes said.
“CAUTION: I HAVE THE CARONAVIRUS” - 2 young men now facing felony charges after they pulled a Coronavirus “prank” inside of a Joliet Walmart. pic.twitter.com/p4Ph8CCA2F— Alexis McAdams ABC-7 (@AlexisMcAdamsTV) February 4, 2020
The young man is now facing felony charges. The suspects left the scene in a white 2003 GMC Yukon registered to Oswego, police said.
The store had to be professionally cleaned and dozens of items were thrown out. Walmart estimated the loss of produce at more than $7,300, with an additional cleanup cost of more than $2,400, police said.
"When you are looking at the damage to property, you are looking at more than $7,000 in damage," said Sgt. Chris Botzum, Joliet Police Department. "It's a lot of money."