Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced on Monday that an arrest warrant has been issued against Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne who opened his church doors to hold service on Sunday despite being told by local authorities not to.
“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger,” Chronister said, according to WTVT-TV.
“Last night I made the decision to seek an arrest warrant for the pastor of a local church who intentionally and repeatedly chose to disregard the orders set in place by our president, our governor, the CDC, and the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue policy group.” pic.twitter.com/L7L0b9jSjA
— Matthew McClellan FOX 13 (@mcclellantv) March 30, 2020
Howard-Browne, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, refused to close its doors despite a “safer at home” order issued by the county meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“They are trying to beat me up, you know, over having the church operational,” Howard-Browne said on a Livestream of Sunday’s services. “But we are not non-essential.”
According to the report, Howard-Browne was charged with unlawful assembly in violation of public health emergency rules, a second-degree misdemeanor.
The sheriff estimated 400 to 500 worshipers packed Sunday’s services, and he chastised Howard-Browne for telling his followers that the coronavirus was a hoax.
“I was appalled and also frightened at the fact that those individuals were thinking and believing they were doing the right thing,” Chronister said. “How many people are they going to infect if they have this #COVID19 now that they’re going to spread it back to the community as they return back to where they live?”