Two Mississippi men charged in Ebola hoax that triggered emergency response

Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer
Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer
Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer

HORN LAKE, Mississippi — Two Horn Lake men have been indicted under a Mississippi law that makes it a felony to cause someone to falsely believe that a person has been “exposed to a harmful biological substance.”

Authorities said the two men are an Ebola hoax last month that triggered an emergency response.

“Hoaxes like that endanger the safety and health of the population as a whole,” Mayor Allen Latimer said Monday.

Allen Wayne Beard and Robert Lee Moltz, both in their mid-20s, were indicted by the DeSoto County grand jury this past week.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to five years in prison or a fine up to $10,000, or both.

On Oct. 19, Horn Lake Police Chief Darryl Whaley said Beard and a friend were confined in their vehicle for at least three hours at a city fire station. Whaley said emergency personnel were called to determine if Beard’s claim of Ebola was genuine. Officials eventually were told by Beard it was all a joke, said police.

“We had a lot of resources tied up, including the Fire Department, for hours,” said Latimer. “What if there had been a real emergency somewhere else, if someone had a heart attack?”

Earlier on Oct. 19, a man called Horn Lake police, saying he came home from church to find his son, a student at Gateway Christian School, soaking in bleach in a bathtub. Police reported the man said his son told him he feared he might have Ebola because two of his friends, Beard and Moltz, had come over, said they’d been to Africa, had tested positive for the potentially deadly disease and then rubbed their bodies on him.

The police report said Beard also told officers he and Moltz had never been to Africa.