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Deliveryman falsely identified by Tucson PD in COVID-19 testing kit theft

Posted: 4:59 PM, Mar 24, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-24 22:06:28-04
Burglar steals coronavirus test kits in Tucson

TUCSON, AZ — A man publicly accused by Tucson Police on social media of disguising himself as a deliveryman and stealing coronavirus test kits from a local health center actually didn’t commit a crime and is the victim of a misunderstanding.

Officials for El Rio Health and Sonora Quest Laboratories confirmed to ABC15 the person was a real delivery man, and he picked up the tests accidentally left out next to other deliveries set to go to Sonora Quest Laboratories.

“It’s a simple miscommunication,” according to a statement from El Rio Health.

Sonora Quest Laboratories also said it was a misunderstanding.

“Initial reports indicated that the kits were stolen, however upon prompt investigation by our team and the El Rio Health Center those claims were proven to be false. The test kits have been returned to El Rio Health Center upon notifying the driver of the mix-up.”

The mix-up happened on the evening of March 20.

The following day, Tucson Police posted a burglary alert on Facebook with multiple surveillance photos of the man.

“The Tucson Police Department is seeking the public's assistance with attempting to identify the pictured burglary suspect,” according to the department’s Facebook post. “On March 20, 2020, just before 8:00 p.m., the suspect entered the El Rio Health Center disguised as a delivery driver. He was able to obtain 29 unused COVID-19 Test Kits while employees were getting ready to close for the evening. This morning, employees noticed the missing kits and called 911.”

The post garnered wide attention on Facebook, collecting hundreds of comments and thousands of shares. It also made local and national headlines, including on CNN.com.

The delivery man, who ABC15 is not identifying, works for B2B Delivery.

Representatives for the business declined to comment. However, ABC15 has learned that B2B, El Rio, and Sonora Quest notified Tucson police this weekend of the mistake.

After ABC15 reached out to Tucson on Tuesday to ask about the case and learn why they hadn’t included that information on social media.

Hours later, the department issued an update and sent out a media release that said officers responded to a burglary call at the health center where employees claimed they didn’t recognize the delivery man from the night before.

The police update said, in part:

“The surveillance photographs were released to the public in an attempt to identify the suspect. Multiple tips were called into the department and on March 22, 2020, detectives were able to positively identify the man in the surveillance video. On March 23, 2020, detectives interviewed the man and determined that he is a legitimate delivery driver for a third-party transport company that subcontracts for Sonora Quest Laboratories. A delivery slip retained by the transport company’s branch manager corroborated the man’s account. After interviewing the delivery driver and employees from El Rio Health Center and Sonora Quest Laboratories, it was determined that the unused test kits were accidentally removed from El Rio and transported to Sonora Quest following a request for pick-up. El Rio employees have since confirmed the kits were returned. The investigation is now closed.”

Tucson Police also posted a separate update on its Facebook page with the new information.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.