The Potluck

Anti-vaccine activist charged with stealing vaccines

By: - June 3, 2021 7:00 am

Thomas E. Humphrey has posted multiple Facebook Live videos about him stealing coronavirus vaccines by pretending to want to get a shot.

A St. Paul man has been charged with misdemeanor theft and disorderly conduct after livestreaming himself pretending he wanted to get vaccinated and then grabbing vials of COVID-19 vaccine and spiriting them off to be “tested” because he believed they contained poison.

Thomas E. Humphrey, 32, who was the subject of a May 8 Reformer story, posted Facebook Live videos of himself walking into an Allina Health vaccination site in Oakdale on May 4 and taking a vial of Pfizer vaccine from a worker, warning others it was poison. 

The next day, he livestreamed himself taking a vial of Johnson & Johnson vaccine from a CVS worker, again telling customers it was poison.

Humphrey is just an extreme example of the nationwide anti-vaccine movement, with tentacles in elite media like Fox News and the campaign of Minnesota Republican candidate for governor Scott Jensen. According to survey data, millions of Americans have absorbed the misinformation about vaccines and are now amplifying it through their social media accounts, giving the virus a lifeline even as widespread vaccination has begun to suffocate the disease. 

Oakdale Police Capt. Nick Newton said Allina employees called the Oakdale police after Humphrey left. According to the citation, the Allina nurses were disturbed by the incident, with one of them leaving for the rest of the day. Patients questioned aloud whether he had a weapon.

Humphrey was gone by the time police arrived, but after reviewing his numerous social media posts about his capers, police mailed citations to his last known address in St. Paul. He will be arrested if he fails to appear in court on the charges.

“He posted stuff on social media,” Newton said. “That didn’t help.”

Humphrey filmed the entire alleged crime, from start to finish. “This is for the greater good,” Humphrey said before going inside the Allina clinic. “There’s people lined up out here to take their vaccine; Ima take mine too.”

He then walked into the vaccination site and went through the process until it was time to get the shot. He asked to see the vaccine, then swiped it from the worker, took off his mask and said, “This is what they’re poisoning everybody with.”

A worker followed him out the door, telling him there were multiple doses in the vial.

“That’s how you take your vaccine, guys,” Humphrey said on the video, encouraging his Facebook followers to do the same thing, saying “We’re putting an end to this (expletive).”

His videos racked up thousands of views and supportive, celebratory comments. He appears to have since been temporarily banned from Facebook, according to posts by his Facebook friends. He hasn’t posted since May 10.

He was arrested in Blaine after the vaccine thefts, but the officers were unaware of that when they were called to a Kwik Shop, where he had filmed himself taking all the free sugar packets to draw some kind of analogy to stealing the free vaccine. 

He was arrested and released hours later because he didn’t have a valid license plate. His livestreamed videos indicate he’s a member of the “sovereign citizen” movement, an anti-government extremist group that believes it is sovereign from the U.S. and doesn’t have to abide by many laws, such as those requiring identification or license plates.

Humphrey also said on a video that he lost his business and home last year due to pandemic restrictions, and lives in a van with his dog. He also said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but disagreed with the diagnosis.

Humphrey could not be reached for comment.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.