Arizona cops look for man who stole 29 coronavirus testing kits from clinic

Authorities searching for man who stole 29 coronavirus testing kits from clinic

TUCSON, Ariz. — Police investigators in Arizona are asking for the public’s help finding a man suspected of stealing 29 coronavirus testing kits Friday.

According to the Tucson Police Department, the man, who was disguised as a delivery driver, was seen on surveillance video going into the El Rio Health Center just before 8 p.m., as staff members prepared to close for the evening. He was able to walk off with 29 unused COVID-19 testing kits.

Employees found the kits missing Saturday morning and called police.

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The Arizona Republic reported that officials learned the day of the burglary that the state had suffered its first COVID-19 death after a Phoenix Aviation Department employee succumbed March 17 to the illness. Authorities learned he had the virus after his death.

As of Saturday, the state had 104 confirmed cases, including the man who died.

The number of known cases jumped to 152 as of Sunday, including a second death, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County, where Tucson is the county seat, has 17 confirmed cases.

Tucson police officials on Saturday shared images of the alleged kit thief on social media. According to authorities, the public campaign worked -- they have identified the suspected burglar.

"The individual in the photographs HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED," authorities said in an update on Facebook. "Detectives are continuing their investigation and additional information will be released as it becomes available. Thank you to everyone who assisted with sharing this post and to those who provided timely information to our department."

KVOA in Tucson said the man's name has not been made public. He was still at large Monday morning.

***UPDATED*** Please refer to the updated Facebook post (above) from March 24, 2020. The photos of the subject in this...

Posted by Tucson Police Department on Saturday, March 21, 2020

"These kits that are out there, when they're outside of a medical facility, are essentially useless," Tucson police Sgt. Pete Dugan told KVOA. "You actually need a medical lab that is equipped with the proper tools to be able to not only test these results but also be able to read these results.

“So, in the public’s hands, they’re very useless.”

Anyone with information about the alleged burglar is asked to call 88-CRIME. Callers can remain anonymous.

"It's really disheartening at a time like this when we're supposed to be helping each other out, helping our neighbors out, looking out for one another, that somebody would take advantage of the public, of the community, and try to steal these items, most likely for a monetary gain," Dugan told the news station.

Tucson police officials said in a news release that the stolen kits have been replaced and the theft has not affected the clinic's testing ability.

"It has however taken 29 testing kits out of the medical field for needed testing in the future," the news release said.

The department warned the public not to buy kits from anyone selling them.

"Do not buy kits from anyone claiming to have coronavirus test kits or COVID-19 test kits. It is a scam," the department warned. "There are currently no home test kits for the virus.

“Contact law enforcement immediately if you encounter anyone trying to sell these types of kits.”

For up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the Pima County Health Department's website at webcms.pima.gov or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at cdc.gov.