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A 50-year-old pharmacist was arrested Monday night after police say she removed two bottles of orange juice from a bag - which they say were filled with rubbing alcohol - and placed them on the shelf with other refrigerated items at a Starbucks in San Jose, California.
San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer took Ramineh Behbehanian of San Jose into custody on an attempted murder charge because the orange juice contained what police said were lethal quantities of isopropyl alcohol. She is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
She has no criminal record in Santa Clara County, according to court records. Late Tuesday, sources confirmed for NBC Bay Area that Behbehanian is a pharmacist working for a company owned by Johnson and Johnson.
Authorities are still not sure why she would have allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with some orange juice in the afternoon, left the bottles in the refrigerated section alongside some yogurt and milk, and left the Snell Avenue store about 3:30 p.m. local time (6:30 p.m. ET).
"Why would she do such a thing?" Chris Africa said, standing outside the Starbucks on Tuesday morning. "Was she trying to poison us?"
An alert customer standing behind her in line spotted her taking out her own bottles of juice from a green Starbucks bag, and put them in the refrigerator section. He also noticed a toxic smell. He told management. The woman might have felt under suspicion, police said, but a Starbucks employee got her license plate.
"A lot of people out there may have seen something and probably dismissed it," Dwyer said. "But I believe that person saved lives by doing that."
The San Jose Fire Department responded to the scene, retrieved the bottles and tested the contents with hazardous materials equipment. It turned out, the bottles were filled with orange juice and rubbing alcohol.
On Tuesday morning, customer Brent Breyer said he was a little "apprehensive" about what happened at his usual Starbucks. He said he often brings his young daughter, who routinely grabs for items in the refrigerated section.
Police were able to track her down at her home, though no motive has surfaced.
A Starbucks spokesperson told NBC Bay Area that the company destroyed all the other juices in the Snell Avenue store out of an abundance of caution and had all other stores in Bay Area check their juice seals.
All checked out OK.