SEBRING — Robert “Bob” Kovner, 62, of Sebring took to Facebook on Tuesday to rant about people not using masks, gloves and social distance at a local grocery store.
It’s the fact that he threatened, if he gets diagnosed with COVID-19, to head “right to Publix and empty every Clip (sic) I own!” that got him arrested.
The Sun ‘N Lake resident was arrested Tuesday and was still in jail Wednesday afternoon on charges of writing or sending a threat to kill or injure and using a two-way communication device to commit a crime, in lieu of $30,000 bond.
The post took place on “Sebring Florida,” an open group on Facebook set up for people to post community events, promote community businesses and organizations and to get to know others in the community.
According to arrest reports, Kovner posted to the group at 4:23 p.m. Tuesday, saying that most people in the greater Sebring area were not using masks of gloves or other personal protection equipment (PPE) to prevent catching or spreading the novel coronavirus that has caused the current pandemic.
Members immediately reported the post to law enforcement and group administrators, who thanked members for their diligence and promptly removed the post, but not before many people got screenshots of both the original post and a second one by Kovner.
“I FIND (sic) it criminal that you enter the supermarket or pharmacy without a mask,” Kovner wrote in his original post, adding that he found people either too stupid to understand the danger or selfish for not using PPE.
“Will it take shooting a few of you Selfish aholes (sic) in the parking lot to get the message through?” he then asked.
He also wrote that his walking cane is 3.5 feet long and his arms were the same length, and warned anyone within that distance, “trust me the virus is not the only thing that may cause your demise!”
In a second post, roughly an hour later, he opened with an apology for his earlier post and expressed dismay that people don’t use PPE.
He said he had lost seven friends and family members in six days to COVID-19 and said his mother-in-law is “fighting for her life at the moment from this horrible virus.”
He then complained about all the ignored precautions or lax attention to them that he saw at the local Publix Supermarket, especially by staff either not wearing masks or stepping out from behind the plastic barriers in checkout lanes.
Later that night, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office made a post of its own, announcing Kovner’s arrest and condemning the threats from his first post.
The Sheriff’s Office noted Kovner’s stated reasons for his post — being upset that not enough people, in his opinion, are wearing masks when they are out and about — also his pending booking on a charge of making a written threat of a mass shooting, a second-degree felony.
“We realize these are stressful times, but there is no excuse for making threats like this,” the Sheriff’s Office post stated. “It’s not a joke. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a crime. We will ALWAYS take them seriously and you will go to jail.”
Last year, on Jan. 23, Sebring experienced its first mass shooting at a SunTrust bank branch, where a man walked in and killed five women — four employees and a customer — then called 911 to report his actions.
No reason or written warning was given for that attack, but the threat of such an attack is also a crime.