Woman at center of viral video charged in coughing incident at Jacksonville store

A Fernandina Beach woman faces a misdemeanor assault charge after she was accused of intentionally coughing on another customer at a Jacksonville store. (Courtesy of Heather Sprague/Facebook)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Nassau County woman faces a criminal charge after she was accused of deliberately coughing on and then threatening another shopper inside a Jacksonville store.

Debra Jo Michele Hunter, 52, of Fernandina Beach, was booked July 22 into the Duval County jail and charged with misdemeanor assault, according to jail records. She was released the same day after posting bond.

The charges stem from a June 25 incident at Pier 1 at the St. Johns Town Center. Witnesses identified Hunter as a woman seen in a viral video berating store staff and coughing on another woman who filmed the incident.

According to an incident report, Heather Sprague told police she was in the store about 2 p.m. that day when she saw the woman upbraiding employees while trying to return an item she didn’t have in her possession.

While watching the woman, Sprague took out her phone and began recording. Sprague’s video, which quickly went viral, then shows the woman responded with obscene gestures.

“I think I’ll get really close to you and cough on you then,” the woman can be heard saying. “How’s that?”

The woman can then be seen coughing on Sprague before walking out of the store with her children in tow.

Sprague, who described herself as a brain tumor patient, was wearing a mask at the time. She filed a police report four days after the incident, saying she had not been feeling well since it happened.

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Posted by Heather Reed Sprague on Thursday, June 25, 2020

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.