A former employee of a Starbucks in Park Ridge, New Jersey, is accused of spitting in drinks served to police officers, authorities said.
Kevin Trejo, 21, of Westwood, was arrested and charged Monday after an investigation found that he spat in the drinks of officers who patronized the store where he worked, Park Ridge Police Chief Joseph Madden said in a statement.
Madden thanked the management of the store for "their sincere cooperation" and said it appears Trejo acted alone.
"We got a tip that he had done this," Capt. Joseph Rampolla told NBC News. "That was enough for our detective bureau to get concerned, especially during" the coronavirus pandemic.
Rampolla said it is unclear how many times Trejo spat in drinks.
"We believe it happened more than once but we can prove it happened at least once on May 25," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. Rampolla did not elaborate on how police confirmed the May 25 incident.
To date, no officers known to have visited the store have fallen ill, he said, but the department is in the process of alerting officers from surrounding jurisdictions who may have bought a drink from the store on or around May 25.
The Park Ridge location has historically had a very good relationship with local police and has hosted multiple "Coffee with a Cop" events, Rampolla said.
He said he does not want Trejo's alleged behavior to tarnish the reputation of the company or workers at the store.
Still, he said, under the current COVID-19 threat, it is disturbing to think that a person would intentionally spit in someone's drink.
A Starbucks spokesman, Reggie Borges, said Trejo was fired.
"This individual's behavior was reprehensible and not at all a reflection of how our employees treat our customers on a daily basis," Borges told NBC News. "We have apologized to the Park Ridge Police department."
The spokesman added: "Everyone who comes into our stores should receive a positive experience and when that doesn't occur, we move quickly to address it and hold ourselves accountable. We will continue to support Park Ridge Police in support of their investigation and have a deep respect for the Park Ridge Police Department and the officers who help keep our partners and communities safe."
The spokesman could not confirm how long Trejo worked at the store.
Trejo is charged with subjecting a law enforcement officer to contact with bodily fluid, tampering with a cup of coffee knowing it was purchased by a law enforcement officer and creating a hazardous environment.
He was released on his own recognizance Monday. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. His first court appearance is Aug. 3.