Wisconsin Pharmacist Who Sabotaged COVID-19 Vaccine More Upsetting Than You Even Knew
Wisconsin pharmacist Steven Brandenburg was arrested last week and charged with intentionally sabotaging 570 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. He wanted people to receive the spoiled vaccine and falsely believe they were protected from the virus.
According to authorities, Brandenburg is an “admitted conspiracy theorist" who thought the vaccine would harm people by "changing their DNA." He's obviously not a very good pharmacist. Rumors have circulated for a while that the COVID-19 vaccine would alter human DNA and turn us into mindless puppets under Bill Gates's control. This is obviously nonsense, but that's a prerequisite for conspiracy theories.
Over Christmas, Brandenburg removed 57 vials of the vaccine and left them out overnight, rendering them useless. Prosecutors claim the vials are worth between $8,000 and $12,000, which seems to understate their value. The vaccine rollout has been slow and the doses are precious. It's not champagne bottle service at a Vegas nightclub. But they're willing to give him a break: If the vials he left out are tested and still usable, they'll drop the charges to a single misdemeanor. Yes, Brandenburg is white.
The prosecutor, Adam Gerol, said that Mr. Brandenburg was "pretty cooperative and admitted to everything he'd done," and that "he expressed that he was under great stress because of marital problems."
Hold up, this is the prosecutor? Brandenburg's defense counsel will have to step up their game. It's nice that the sick bastard was “pretty cooperative," but why is the prosecutor telling us about the guy's “marital problems"? He's like the combination therapist and DA from that "Law & Order" spin-off I once pitched.
Brandenburg reportedly told his wife, Gretchen, that “the world is crashing down around us." (She was probably trying to vacuum around him while he had his existential crisis, and he didn't even bother picking up his feet.) She's wisely divorcing his ass, and last week, she filed for sole custody of their two daughters, 4 and 6, after discovering he was under investigation for tampering with the vaccine. She said she “feared his reaction if he lost his job." That was a reasonable concern considering that Brandenburg's coworkers claimed he brought a gun to work at least twice.
This is a dangerous man, and the Good Will Hunting-style prosecutor is close to hugging the asshole and telling him it's not his fault.
In her motion, Gretchen Brandenburg said that on Dec. 6, her husband picked up the children and dropped off a water purifier, a large bucket of powdered milk and two 30-day emergency buckets of food.
Of course, he's a survivalist.
"He told me that if I didn't understand by now that he is right and that the world is crashing down around us, I am in serious denial," she said in an affidavit. "He continued to say that the government is planning cyberattacks and plans to shut down the power grid."
Gretchen Brandenburg claims that her husband told their 6-year-old daughter, "This is not our home; heaven is our home," and "All the bad angels and the devil are going to burn in the lake of fire forever." She would prefer that his time with their children is closely supervised.
"I was so concerned about my safety and the safety of our children that I left town for a period of time," she wrote.
See, Mr. Prosecutor, Gretchen Brandenburg and her daughters are the ones under “great stress." She filed for divorce in June and is rightly terrified of her husband. Note what her lawyer, Brian Herro, said at a July hearing.
My understanding is that the respondent is more aligned with the feeling of conspiracy theories ... He has theories about COVID-19. He believes the end of the world is coming. So my client would like him to be out.
Someone with “theories about COVID-19" shouldn't have been within a country mile of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Although family court granted Gretchen Brandenburg full custody of her children on Monday, the criminal court has released Steven Brandenburg "on a promise to pay $10,000 if he did not show up for his next hearing" on January 19. He was ordered to surrender his firearms, and I'm sure he'll get right on that.
Brandenburg fits a similar profile to Anthony Quinn Warner, the unhinged conspiracy theorist who blew up an RV in downtown Nashville. Warner's girlfriend had also sounded alarms about his potential for violence but no one listened. Both men held a clear, if delusional, ideology, which led them to acts of political violence. But don't call them terrorists. That's just rude.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).