Officials confirm man sprayed feces, E. Coli on produce at West Ashley Harris Teeter
WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - Investigators say a laboratory test has confirmed that a substance a man sprayed on produce at a West Ashley Harris Teeter contained human feces and E. Coli contaminates.
On Friday, law enforcement charged 41-year-old Pau Hang with tampering food products, and was given a $100,000 bond. This comes after he was originally given a $100,000 bond for malicious injury to personal property and a $465 bond for trespassing.
Officials identified Hang as a disgruntled, former contractor at the store on 975 Savannah Highway.
Newly released court records state a bottle that Hang used to spray produce at the Harris Teeter on Sunday tested positive for human feces and E. Coli.
Additionally, investigators say Hang confessed to detectives that he sprayed the produce with a substance containing his feces and urine that he mixed in his vehicle prior to entering the business.
"The defendant continued to state that he intentionally exposed the produce with the forethought and knowledge that it would likely be purchased and consumed by Harris Teeter customers," an affidavit read.
According to authorities, surveillance video showed the suspect spraying the contents of the bottle onto the produce and "adjacent fresh food departments."
Court records state customers were also seen on the same video continuing to walk to and make purchases in those exposed areas of the store.
The affidavit read that the damage to the exposed produce and merchandise was initially valued at $3,000, but due to the level of exposure and the merchandise affected in conjunction with the cleanup, the total damage was estimated at nearly $100,000.
Officials with the Charleston Police Department said the produce section of the store was secured and the produce removed.
"The produce section was cleaned and reopened after it was inspected by DHEC," CPD officials said.
Officers originally responded to the store on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a report of someone trespassing.
The manager pointed at the suspect and said he was on trespass notice from the store and had a history of "frequently violating" the directive.
According to the manager, the suspect was carrying a plastic bottle which had some kind of brown substance in it.
A report states the suspect started to empty the contents of the bottle to all of the produce.
The manager said he then immediately escorted the suspect out of the store with the assistance of other employees and contacted police.
The manager reported that the substance in the bottle had a foul odor similar to feces. He told investigators that he discarded the bottle in a garbage can.
When police spoke to the suspect, he told them that he knew he was on trespass notice, but stated that the business owed him money and that he was not going to stay away until he was given his money.
Court records state Hang has been charged with trespassing at the store seven previous times.
Police say Hang had been on trespass notice for the store located at the St. Andrews Shopping Center since Nov. 24, 2015.
One shopper said she saw store personnel closing off the produce area and other nearby departments as employees worked to deal with the incident.
"I just thought it might have been another recall," the shopper said."But as I worked my way around the grocery store and headed back towards the deli, they started closing off the bread aisle and closing off all the pre-cooked food."
According to the shopper, she was told by store management that an individual had been tormenting the store for a while, and had sprayed feces in the store.
"Before I left the store, 90% of the produce department was already taken off the shelves," the shopper said.
Harris Teeter released the following statement on the day of the incident:
Food safety and quality are paramount to Harris Teeter. We were extremely alarmed and disappointed to learn that today, a disgruntled, former contractor attempted to contaminate food products in the Produce department and Fresh Foods department inside our St. Andrews Shopping Center location. Our valued associates immediately took action – closing down affected departments and notifying appropriate team members. Additionally, our associates properly discarded any and all product that was exposed to contamination as well as thoroughly cleaned and sanitized affected areas.
In an abundance of caution, Harris Teeter has proactively contacted the Charleston County Department of Health. The affected departments will not re-open without the Charleston County Department of Health's approval.
The former contractor has been arrested.
Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.