Steven Brandenburg has been identified as the Wisconsin pharmacist who tampered and caused deliberate destruction of 500+ COVID-19 vaccine doses, last month, according to local news.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the 46-year-old, who was arrested on December 31 following accusations from the Aurora Health Care Medical Group that an unnamed healthcare worker ruined the vaccines, was released on Monday, January 4, and participated in a Zoom hearing in court regarding the felony charges he potentially faces.
Neither he nor his lawyer commented to media, but Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol reported to the judge that the vaccines might not actually be completely spoiled and some of it still might be usable, in which case Brandenburg would only be charged with a misdemeanor.
The vials, which were damaged due to being left out of refrigerated storage overnight, are in the hospital's possession, and still need to be tested to see if they are viable. Initially, the hospital staff thought the oversight of leaving them out was an accident. The estimated value of the spoiled doses is between $8,000 and $11,000.
However, according to Gerol, Brandenburg confessed to police that he did indeed deliberately attempt to destroy the doses by leaving them out of the refrigerator, due to the fact that he felt they weren't safe and could alter human DNA. One police detective reportedly termed him an "admitted conspiracy theorist."
Brandenburg, who has been fired by the hospital, also was reported by coworkers to have brought a gun to work with him at least two times in the past.
According to The New York Times, Brandenburg is currently in the midst of a divorce from his wife, Gretchen, who has expressed her own concerns about his conspiracy leanings.
"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."
The couple have two young children, ages 4 and 6. Gretchen is petitioning for full custody of the kids, saying that she fears for their safety.