While authorities and health officials are encouraging social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, an Alpharetta man is accused of taking it way too far.
He was arrested after allegedly pulling a gun on two women wearing masks at a post office Sunday afternoon, police said.
The suspect, 75-year-old Harvey Joel Taratoot, aimed the weapon at Sandra Wilson and her 18-year-old granddaughter as they checked their mailbox at the post office on Webb Bridge Road, according to an Alpharetta police report.
Wilson told Channel 2 Action News she wasn’t sure if she would live or die after seeing the man pull his gun out of his holster and aim it at her.
“He said, ‘Don’t come near me! Do you understand what’s going on? The coronavirus,’” Wilson recalled.
Her granddaughter, Shaniyah Carlton, told the news station that Wilson stepped in front of her as both women stared down the barrel of Taratoot’s gun.
Wilson said Taratoot seemed apologetic as he ran from the post office, reportedly telling them, “I’m sorry, I had to do that.”
He also warned them not to touch the door, wiping the handle as he left the building and walked back to his Toyota minivan, according to the police report.
When officers arrived at the scene, Taratoot had left. The women told police they were both wearing medical masks and gloves when they entered the post office before being confronted by a man with a “Colonel Sanders mustache.”
Carlton was able to snap a photo of his license plate as he drove away and showed it to officers, who also discovered some mail that Taratoot apparently dropped in his haste to leave the post office and get away from the women. The evidence led police directly to Taratoot’s home.
When officers arrived, the 75-year-old still had his 9 mm Ruger holstered to his hip, and was taken into custody on one count of pointing a pistol at another, authorities said.
Police said Taratoot admitted aiming the gun at the women because he was afraid of catching the coronavirus.
“Folks, this was such an overreaction on the part of the suspect,” police said in a Facebook post. “Please do not allow fear to overcome your logic while we’re going through this. This could have certainly ended with tragic results for everyone involved.”
Taratoot, who owns a small business according to Channel 2 Action News, contacted the station’s newsroom to defend himself. When asked if he thinks the charges should be dropped, he replied: “Absolutely.”
He then offered his side of the events that took place at the post office.
“So as they start approaching, I say to them, ‘Please don’t come any closer,’ and they ignore what I say and kept coming closer,” he said.
He denied ever aiming the gun at the women, Channel 2 reported.
Taratoot was later released from the Fulton County Jail on a $1,500 bond, online jail records show.
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