Homeland Security

Man Accused of Multi-State Spree Contaminating Grocery Items

(FBI photo)

A man previously arrested for pouring chemicals on food at a Target in Arizona now faces federal charges for allegedly contaminating food in “a variety of stores.” One example of the alleged contaminations includes pouring bleach onto frozen seafood in California.

David C. Lohr, 48, was originally arrested by Phoenix police in October after Target employees witnessed him contaminating food for sale. The retailer said he may have tampered with frozen food and fresh meat at stores in Ahwatukee Foothills, Tempe, Chandler and Scottsdale.

At some point Lohr was released, and a warrant was issued in Maricopa County for the transient on Jan. 14.

The FBI said Monday that in December and January, Lohr was witnessed at multiple supermarkets in the Los Angeles area, including Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and West Los Angeles, pouring bleach into refrigerators and freezers that contained consumable items for sale such as ice, beer and seafood.

“Some customers reported smelling bleach on products. Tampered packages were subsequently destroyed,” the FBI said. “…To date, there have been no known reports of individuals sickened by Lohr’s actions; however, further investigation has determined that Lohr has done this in a variety of stores, and the extent of his actions are currently under investigation.”

Federal agents were hunting for Lohr when he was arrested in Northern California Feb. 6 by Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies after reportedly spreading white powder — later determined to be salt — and hydrogen peroxide aboard a public bus.

The deputies later discovered that Lohr had allegedly poured hydrogen peroxide on or near rotisserie chickens for sale at a Sunnyvale supermarket.

In addition to the federal criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles of tampering and attempting to tamper with consumer products, and the Arizona and Northern California charges, Lohr faces similar accusations in Orange County, Calif.

The FBI is asking for information at 1-800-CALL-FBI regarding anyone who knows about Lohr’s action or believes they may have been affected by the supermarket tampering; bleach can cause eye and skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Officials did not indicate if they believed there was any ideological motive behind the contamination campaign. For years, jihadist groups have discussed contaminating foods such as salad bars and buffets with chemical or biological agents.

In May 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued an alert in a bulletin to first responders: “While we have not seen any specific, credible terrorist threats against Homeland food production and distribution infrastructure, we cannot rule out the possibility of inspired violent extremists or disgruntled insiders attempting to adulterate or poison food and beverages.”