The Wisconsin pharmacist who intentionally sabotaged hundreds of doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine because he thought COVID-19 was a hoax, also believes the earth is flat and the sky is actually a “shield put up by the Government to prevent individuals from seeing God.”
That’s according to a newly-unsealed FBI search warrant application obtained by The Daily Beast, which the bureau filed earlier this month requesting permission to analyze an iPhone, a laptop, and a thumb drive seized from Steven Brandenburg when he was arrested in late December.
Federal authorities accused Brandenburg, 46, of purposely destroying 570 doses of the vaccine by twice removing a box containing the vials from a refrigerator at Advocate Aurora Health Systems in Grafton, WI, where he worked the night shift. Brandenburg knew this could spoil the vaccine, which can only survive for up to 12 hours outside of refrigeration, said prosecutors. The damaged doses that Brandenburg tampered with were subsequently given to at least 57 patients.
The warrant application, filed in federal court by FBI Special Agent Lindsay Schloemer, reveals that Brandenburg’s delusions went far beyond doubting the reality of the coronavirus. Not only did Brandenburg insist the “microchipped” vaccine would “turn off people’s birth control and make others infertile,” he was convinced that the physical world around him was not what it seemed, a coworker told investigators.
“Some of the conspiracy theories Brandenburg told [the coworker] about included: the earth is flat; the sky is not real, rather it is a shield put up by the Government to prevent individuals from seeing God; and Judgment Day is coming,” the 26-page filing says.
The coworker, identified in the document as pharmacy technician Sarah Sticker, told authorities that Brandenburg carried a .45-caliber handgun to work, which he said he needed “in case the military came to take him away.” Cops seized several firearms from Brandenburg’s home on New Year’s Eve.
Sticker, who is reportedly the one that discovered the vaccines Brandenburg removed from the refrigerator on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, told investigators that Brandenburg tried to “guilt trip” her after learning she turned him in.
“If I lose this job, I lose my kids,” Brandenburg allegedly told Sticker, who said she feared Brandenburg was becoming “desperate” or “unhinged.”
Sticker, who was unable to be reached for comment, also told investigators she saw Brandenburg researching the vaccine on his work computer, looking to see if there was a mechanism on the boxes that tracked the vials’ temperature.
When interviewed by law enforcement, Brandenburg at first tried to explain away what he did as a simple mistake. He said that his attempt to render the vaccine doses ineffective was “a spontaneous act,” and that he “wasn’t thinking straight due to what was going on in his life.”
“Investigators asked how this could be a spontaneous act when Brandenburg did it two days in a row,” says the warrant application. “Brandenburg did not have an answer.”
In a subsequent interview, followed by an email included in the warrant application, Brandenburg confessed that he in fact did spoil the vaccines because he thought they would “alter the recipient’s DNA.” He further explained that he was in the midst of a “very contentious divorce” and wasn’t sleeping properly.
“My actions were inexcusable and I deeply apologize for the harm I have caused,” Brandenburg wrote.
According to divorce records reviewed by Milwaukee ABC News affiliate WISN, Brandenburg’s wife Gretchen told a judge that her husband was storing bulk food and guns in multiple rental units, fearing that the government was planning attacks on the electrical grid and the nation’s computer networks. She said she was so scared for her safety, and that of her children’s, that she left town.
Last week, Brandenburg—who has since been fired from his job—agreed to plead guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard, and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each charge. His lawyer, Jason Baltz, did not respond to a request for comment. Brandenburg is due back in court on Feb. 9.